New Space: The Story of the First Manned Rocket

Hail all the Pioneers (3 pictures)
According to, Scholar Wan Hu in the Ming Dynasty is regarded as the originator of manned rockets and trailblazer in doing experiments aimed at taking humans to space. Here’s how his attempt went down:

“On the basis of his research about the boosting power generated by the rockets, he made a chair with 47 rockets, the maximum number that could possibly be tied to his chair. He tied himself to the chair, and held two big kites in each of his hands.”

“Then he asked his assistants to fire the fuses of the 47 rockets at the same time, hoping to fly in the sky with the boosting power from the rockets and the kites.”

“Though doomed to fail, Wan Hu has been universally acknowledged as the first man to try flying to space with the help of rockets. In memory of Wan, one of the lunar craters on the back of the moon is named after him.”

Wikipedia won’t have it though, stating it’s probably a hoax. Instead, Wiki offers Lagari Hasan Çelebi, who reportedly flew to 300 meters of altitude for 200 seconds on a rocket packed with 140 lbs of gunpowder. Celebi survived the trip and got a prominent position in the Turkish-Ottoman army.

So who was the first rocket pilot – Wan or Lagari? Wan Hu was reportedly also busted by Discovery’s Mythbusters in 2004 who said that “small rockets that can be strapped to a chair cannot provide sufficient thrust to effectively lift it”. But then they were busted by John Carmack’s Armadillo Aerospace who (sort of) did it in 2005.

We may never know who was the first astronaut, but Wan Hu would have been excited at how common rocketeers are becoming these days.

Watch the lab for more on rockets, the people’s way.