Bizarre Video: China’s Tiangong 1 Space Lab Animation set to ‘America the Beautiful’ Soundtrack

The Guardian newspaper in England is reporting that China’s state run television, CCTV, and China’s space agency released a video animation of the just launched Tiangong 1 miniature space station showing extensive footage of rendezvous and docking maneuvers in Earth orbit that is inexplicably set to the tune of “America the Beautiful”, a patriotic hymn that many American’s regard as a second, unofficial national anthem. Watch the YouTube video above and decide yourself.

The Guardian writes; “While China’s leaders were celebrating the triumphant launch of Tiangong-1 space lab on Thursday (Sept 29) , viewers of state television footage [CCTV] were treated to a bizarre choice of soundtrack: America the Beautiful”.

Selecting “America the Beautiful’ for the Tiangong-1 (Heavenly Palace 1) launch sound track seems rather questionable, says the Guardian, and it’s hard to tell if this was choice was intentional or an error by the propaganda department

“Is this the work of an idealist seeking to usher in a new era of trans-Pacific co-operation, a nationalist who wants to colonise American culture as well as outer space, or simply a propaganda gaffe?” – wrote the Guardian

A CCTV official quoted by the Guardian could not offer any clarification.

“I don’t know how to answer your question,” Chen Zhansheng of the CCTV propaganda department said. “I cannot help you.”


The CCTV website states that the animation was provided by the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center and provides a detailed description. Since the Guardian’s story, the animation has been deleted by CCTV.

The animation itself begins with a simulated launch of Tiangong-1 aboard the Long March 2F rocket and then shows the upcoming rendezvous and docking sequence with the Shenzhou-8 unmanned capsule that is set to launch in early November

Two days after blastoff of Shenzhou-8, it will complete China’s first rendezvous and docking in space. After about 12 days, the two spacecraft are due to uncouple.

China will then attempt another docking to gain more practice ahead of the launch of two manned Shenzhou capsules scheduled for 2012 (Shenzhou-9 and 10) with crews of two or three Chinese astronauts, one of whom may be a woman.

Check this action packed alternate version I found, in Chinese, which is set to different music and with even more extensive animation of the Tiangong 1/Shenzhou-8 joint mission.

One thing absolutely clear is that China is aggressively pushing forward with its manned space program, while the US space program retrenches due to continual budget cutbacks.

China plans to orbit a 60 ton, 3 module manned space station by 2020, about the time when the lifetime of the ISS may be coming to an end, unless the international partners agree to fund an extension of its orbital research activities.

The Chinese space station would be about the size of America’s first space station – Skylab.

In the meantime, officials at the Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center report that they continue adjusting the orbit of the 10 meter long Tiangong-1 space lab module.

Read Ken’s related features about Tiangong 1
China Blasts First Space Lab Tiangong 1 to Orbit
China set to ‘Leap Forward in Space’ as Tiangong 1 Rolls to Launch Pad

11 Replies to “Bizarre Video: China’s Tiangong 1 Space Lab Animation set to ‘America the Beautiful’ Soundtrack”

  1. You never know, it may just be a tribute to the accomplishments of America in space exploration? Nah…. not nearly cynical enough, they’re just taking the….

  2. It’s quite obvious to me. It’s “In your face!” message from China. But instead of complaining and sending official notes USA should get back to work. It’s not a kindergarden where “everyone is equal” and “no child is left behind”. Without money directed from military to NASA the next giant leap will be red flag on Mars.

    PS. I am from country with no space aspirations so I can only wish you luck.

  3. I think China desperately wants to “belong” to the Space Club and, to fit in, tried to find a Western theme that would please Western ears. But, I figure “America the Beautiful” isn’t getting much airtime in China and so, when the mid-level bureaucrat assigned to find an appropriate theme to impress the existing Space Club members, he grabbed that one, not knowing what it was.

    When his masters found out – seemingly through the Guardian – they yanked the bit.

    Who wants to bet that the mid-level bureaucrat is now serving in a nice re-education camp?

  4. Wary interesting.. Qian Xuesen, an ex-patriot American citizen returned to China to lead that country’s rocket development program. Perhaps he had something to do with this ‘tribute’? If so, he better ‘hide out’ for a while, at least until this news blurb blows over…

    The Disney tune – “It’s a small world after all…” might have been more fitting? LOL!

  5. To me the American anthem is Dvorak’s New World Symphony. I think this is a long way from planting a red flag on Mars. This looks to be a redux of the Soviet Salut spacestation program of the 1970s.


  6. It’s clearly a taunt to the U.S. – but somebody might want to let the Chinese Space agency, and their communist minders know that they are about 35 years late in the mini “space-station” market and that their showpiece Salyut clone is a waste of time. This is like the equivalent of them rolling out their aircraft carrier to much fanfare – Congratulations!, you are only 80 years late in the carrier race, years away from implementation, hundreds of millions over budget, and you are the proud owners of a second-rate Soviet-era hulk that gives you 1/11th the power of the U.S fleet. Yay China!

    1. China has made zero technical missteps in its recent space efforts. They have an aggressive space development program that is rapidly clicking off the requirements for manned spaceflight. Those are the same as they were 35 years ago. They want that capability, and they have the planning, budget, and talent to succeed. That has been obvious from the frequent news in magazines like Aviation Week over the past five years.

      We have lost that capability, voluntarily threw it away, really. We couldn’t launch a man rated booster this year if our nation depended on it. We have to hire the Russians for that. We have no ability to loft another space station of even the smallest sort, not even one module, and won’t for quite some time.

      But the Chinese have that capability, right now. Because they think it’s important. And we could not care less.

      Where are they heading? The Moon. Then Mars.
      Where are we heading? Nowhere.

      Maybe we can ask for a ride on their shiny mars ship in 35 years, if we have saved up sufficient yuan.

  7. The present report quotes a British newspaper, thus: “Is this the work of an idealist seeking to usher in a new era of trans-Pacific co-operation, a nationalist who wants to colonise American culture as well as outer space, or simply a propaganda gaffe?”

    The answer is to be found in an incident involving the U.S., back in 2003. China is reacting to the rejection it suffered back then. “So we weren’t mature enough for you eight years ago. How about now?” It was a second, awkward try at storming the citadel.

    Some people are late-comers to the subject of the Chinese space exploration program. This leads them to a glaring misunderstanding. For example, the report about the recent lift-off, dated Sept. 29 (“China Blasts etc.”), is followed by this comment from a reader: “(…) pity they can’t sideline political differences and pool resources with the U.S.”

    Not at all! They’ve always been a practical people and eventually this tendency prevails. That’s the reason historians give for the rejection of Buddhism there. (If the same thing happened at the starting point, in India, it was for a different reason: the ruling caste felt threatened and organized a successful reaction.) It thrived elsewhere, in Southeast Asia, and further to the east.

    They’re no longer encumbered by Maoism or any other ideology. Even Mao’s Little Red Book says something like this: “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white. What matters is that it catch mice.” Deng Hsiaoping or Xiaoping, who was first reviled as a revisionist, made a comeback and prepared the way for “capitalist socialism”, as they call their own system. He used to go around quoting that passage.

    Their disease is totalitarianism. The State is all-powerful. There is no right to privacy. A Chinaman’s home is NOT his castle. If you’re complaining about not getting enough compensation for the building of a dam that will put your village under water, and a foreign journalist arrives at your place to talk about it, someone will walk in uninvited and sit down in the living room a couple of yards away from you and the visitor in order to listen to every word spoken. It’s that scary. What they don’t tolerate is disagreement on whatever decisions the rulers might make. The same goes for right-wing, wild Capitalist Latin American or Asian dictatorships whenever they come around.

    On April 28, 2004, displayed a report titled “U.S. Snubbed China’s Offer For Space Co-operation: ‘Technology Not Mature’ “. It says: “The Chinese Nat’l. Space Admin. was surprised to receive a cold reaction from the U.S. after the successful flight of taikonaut Yang Liwei in October 2003 (…). (…) Questions over whether China’s space effort is a civilian program, or a military endeavor that could eventually threaten the U.S., were reportedly responsible for the U.S.’s unco-operative reaction. (…) The cool reception from the U.S. prompted China to turn to other nations and coalitions like the European Space Agency where the country has sunk $259 million in the multinational Galileo project.”

  8. It is only bizarre if you put an external political context on it. CCTV is China’s state television, and this is quite obviously a chinese public video (chinese texts).

    Now, it is impossible to predict individual actor’s behavior in isolated cases.

    So instead we have to predict that this can happen with incoming influences; even I recognize that music.

    The simplest prediction would be that it is a common occurrence, a correlation, between showing nationalistic endeavors and common nationalistic music. If so, the cultural context has made it not bizarre or in bad taste. Like playing death metal during an operation. But of course media would have to imply a more interesting scenario, how unlikely it can be.

    Implicitly it would be a recognition of US, even though I am pretty sure it can’t be interpreted as that in such a culture.

    In other words, I don’t think this takes us very far without a lot of data on CCTV broadcasts.

    Btw, speaking of recognition, do you notice how the craft emulates russian crafts but the station emulates european/japanese crafts (ATV/HTV) rather than american docking targets? Everything else alike, the design can’t be that critical so it looks like a choice was taken.

    Maybe the US rejection of China earlier capability (latest 2004, IIRC) comes back with a bite.

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