(AsiaNews) - China's Shenzhou (divine craft in Chinese) IX spacecraft, with a
crew of two men and one woman, could prove a public relations disaster for the
government's spin doctors who may hope to distract domestic and international
opinion from the country's many social problems. In China itself, the
authorities' fanatical concern for astronaut food clashes with their poor food
safety record. In fact, many people have died in the past few years from food
IX and its launch rocket are ready for tomorrow's liftoff at the Jiuquan
Satellite Launch Centre, weather permitting. The 13-day mission will mark a
great leap forward for China's technology, Communist Party officials said, but ordinary
Chinese seem to be concerned (and angry) about the quality of food on board the
its coverage of the event, the mainland press has reported how closely the food
for the mission has been monitored. With a price tag in the billions of yuan, having
a taikonaut (a Mandarin word for astronaut) experience a bellyache during his
or her spacewalk would not be good public relations.
stories about astronaut food have also generated more hits and commentaries that
those about China's first woman in space or that the mission will be the first one
with a human crew to land in history.
this case, pork on board the craft come from pigs fed with organically grown cereals
that were closely monitored and quarantined before slaughter. Ordinary Chinese are
none too pleased. The site that reported the story had millions of hits and
more than 22,000 comments were posted on sina.com,
one of largest web portals in Chinese.
will the government pay attention to the food on my dish?" asked one Sina user from Henan province. "If
we can't feel safe about our food, how can we feel proud of our country?" lamented
another user from Guangdong.
views are not far from the truth. Tainted pork, detergent-tainted milk powder, toxic
toothpaste and shrimps à la glue have killed thousands of people because of
poor food safety enforcement.
people are still waiting to see who will be the first woman taikonaut. Two women
are still in the run for China's first spacewoman: Major Liu Yang, a "hero
pilot" who safely landed her passenger airliner after it was hit by a flock of
birds, and Captain Wang Yaping, famous for leading rescue missions in the
aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake.
are 30, with a child, which guarantees optimal physical and mental conditions. However,
they cannot have any scar, which can reopen in space and bleed, or strong body
odours, which are intensified in the restricted conditions of space.
is chosen, Beijing noted, will have private sleeping quarters on board and will
be able to bring "basic" sanitary products.