China Really Didn’t Fake It (Part Deux)

Left: The reflection in Zhai's visor shows a three-row array attached to the spacecraft. Right: The reflection from Zhai's wrist mirror shows the same array, only closer. They are not studio lights (CCTV)

Left: The reflection in Zhai's visor shows a three-row array attached to the spacecraft. Right: The reflection from Zhai's wrist mirror shows the same array, only closer. They are not studio lights (CCTV)

Remember all that conspiracy theory nonsense that was kicked up after the Chinese space walk last year? It would appear that people are still pointing fingers, accusing the Chinese space agency of being very handy with water tanks and computer animation, simulating Zhai Zhigang dangling above the (fake)Earth as he waves his flag in (fake)space. This is even after thorough analysis by the likes of professional sceptic* Phil Plait and myself (proto-professional sceptic), where the conclusion was reached that… um… China did indeed do the EVA. I’d also argue it would probably be even more difficult to pull off a stunt like the conspiracy being proposed than to get into space in the first place!

Anyhow, why am I repeating a chewed shoe of a conspiracy theory when we already know China successfully carried out a successful spacewalk on September 27th, 2008? An eagle-eyed reader of Astroengine has come forward with some additional evidence supporting one of my arguments against one of the conspiracy claims. Always nice to back up arguments with proof isn’t it?

*Yep, that is the proper spelling before you send me a message telling me otherwise. UK = “sceptic”, US = “skeptic”. So there.

A scene from the historic Chinese spacewal-- wait a minute! That's under water! (Shenzhou-7 crew training in a water tank). Credit: People.com.cn

A scene from the historic Chinese spacewal-- wait a minute! That's under water! (Shenzhou-7 crew training in an actual water tank). Credit: People.com.cn

If there’s one thing that I am mildly impressed with when it comes to conspiracy theories, it’s their longevity. I made the wild assumption that the accusations that China faked their historic space walk last year had run out of steam and fizzled into the background Internet chatter. However, Astroengine.com is still being sprayed with search engine traffic of people looking for “china”, “fake”, “bubbles” and “spacewalk”. After a bit of research, I found that several websites and forums are still discussing the topic as if it is common knowledge that China faked its spacewalk. I can’t face going into it all over again, so check out Bubbles, Reflections and Space Walks… Did China Really Fake It?

However, concerning Zhai Zhigang’s wrist mirror reflection, I was especially proud to be the first to notice that the reflecting lights weren’t the conspiracy theorist “studio floodlights”, they were in fact a small lighting system mounted to the hull of Shenzhou-7 (it always helps to have light when filming the most significant moment in Chinese spaceflight history, doesn’t it?). Unfortunately, back in November, the only proof I had that this was the case was the screen grab of a frame from the video of a reflection in Zhai’s helmet, and then compared it with the wrist “studio lights” reflection. Yes, the studio light reflection was actually a reflection of a set of lights attached to the hull of the spacecraft.

However, with the help of Astroengine.com reader Qian Zhang, we can get a better look at what was reflecting in Zhai’s helmet visor:

The orbital module of Shenzhou 7. Could it be the camera and lighting system that reflected in the helmet? (China Gate)

The orbital module of Shenzhou 7. Could it be the camera and lighting system that reflected in the helmet? (China Gate)

This photograph came from a special exhibit being held at the 7th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, south China’s Guangdong Province on November 3rd, 2008. Of particular interest is the replica orbital module where the two taikonauts triumphantly exited Shenzhou-7. As expected, there appears to be a camera mounted to the hull (circled, in conspiracy theory red), accompanied by a set of what appears to be… lights?

Light panels, much like the lighting system used during the Chinese spacewalk (Lite Panels)

Light panels, much like the lighting system used during the Chinese spacewalk, are common in movie making (Lite Panels)

This may not be conclusive evidence that there was a mini lighting system attached to the hull of Shenzhou-7, in front of the hatch, but if we think this through logically, there had to be some light source to act as a “filler” to capture the EVA on camera. Where did the light source come from? Was it studio lights? Or could this prominent box (that looks like a wired camera plus lighting system) be that reflection we saw in the visor and wrist mirror? I think it’s the latter, no studio lights required… because the Chinese spacewalk was, once and for all, in space.

Source: China Gate (Thank you Qian Zhang for the tip)

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4 responses to “China Really Didn’t Fake It (Part Deux)

  1. Pingback: Notizie varie dal mondo virtuale… « Paoblog’s Weblog

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