Blogs > Cliopatria > So You Really Can't See the Chinese Great Wall from Outter Space

Mar 19, 2004 9:05 pm

So You Really Can't See the Chinese Great Wall from Outter Space

History Today (March 12, 2004):

Chinese official policy may be altered following reports from their first person in space who claimed he could not see the Great Wall when orbiting Earth. Last year China launched their first man into space, Yang Liwei, in the spacecraft Shenzhou V. He stated he could not see the Great Wall when travelling round the globe for 21.5 hours. The Beijing Times reports that an official at the Ministry of Education has confirmed the publisher of school textbooks has been asked to alter certain sections. Official textbooks have for many years claimed the Wall could be seen from space; the structure is visible, however, from shuttle radar images. The paper reports:"Having this falsehood printed in our elementary school textbooks is probably the main cause of the misconception being so widely spread.” The defensive wall was built up around 214BC by the Qin dynasty emperor Shi Huangdi who connected earlier earthen walls. Later dynasties added to the structure, primarily the Ming dynasty from the 14th-17th centuries, which built it up to a 1,500-mile long stone barrier.

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Robert Entenmann - 3/12/2004

The common idea that you can see the Great Wall from space is absurd. Many buildings are higher, and it's narrower than any freeway. It's made out of stone more or less the same color as the surrounding countryside. I've flown over it in an airplane and couldn't pick it out of the scenery on a clear day. It's amazing that this story has been around for so long.