- China's first reported spacewalk has been officially declared void by the International Federation of Astronauts (IFA). Zhai Zhigang quickly became a national sensation when the China National Space Administration (CNSA) declared him the first Chinese taikonaut to walk in space on September 27, 2008. Huge, state-sponsored, internet fan clubs boasted that China had finally moved from the "Have Nots to the Have Nauts". However, immediately following China's declaration of victory, many international observers pointed out Zhigang's youthful looks, leading to speculation that he may not have been above the age of 16.
Based on detailed space ethics studies, 16 is the required minimum age, set by the IFA, for space walking. The rule was issued in the spirit of promoting fairness because younger space walkers are supposedly more fearless when performing difficult maneuvers, such as putting one foot in front of the other, and doing the robot and/or the moonwalk.
The IFA demanded that the CNSA produce undisputable proof of Zhigang's age within a week. When they could not, the IFA promptly stripped Zhigang of his title of "First Chinese Space Walker" and promised to open an exhaustive investigation of the ages of Chinese space walkers. "I believe we will be able to thoroughly investigate all Chinese space walkers," stated a top IFA official, on condition of anonymity. "Especially since Zhai Zhigang is the only one." In response, the CNSA has announced that it will appeal the decision, stating "One week is simply not enough time to doctor a modern passport...give us just a few more days, and we will be able to provide plausible, passport-like evidence that Zhigang is of required age."
This is merely the latest in a string of scandals regarding Chinese taikonauts. Just six months before, China had declared Liu Boming the country's first taikonaut to crawl in space. However, the IFA found him guilty of doping with moving-through-space-enhancement drugs and stripped him of his title. "China may yet compete in the space race," explained NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, "but until they learn to cheat without getting caught, they'll just have to live in shame with America's obvious cosmic superiority." HSP