BEIJING – A news story describing a successful launch of China's long-awaited space mission and including detailed dialogue between astronauts launched on the Internet Thursday, hours before the rocket had even left the ground.
The country's official news agency Xinhua posted the article on its Web site Thursday, and remained there for much of the day before it was taken down.
A staffer from the Xinhuanet.com Web site who answered the phone Thursday said the posting of the article was a "technical error" by a technician. The staffer refused to give his name as is common among Chinese officials.
The Shenzhou 7 mission, which will feature China's first-ever spacewalk, launch Thursday from Jiuquan in northwestern China.
The article, dated two days from now on Sept. 27, vividly described the rocket in flight, complete with a sharply detailed dialogue between the three astronauts.
Excerpts are below:
"After this order, signal lights all were switched on, various data show up on rows of screens, hundreds of technicians staring at the screens, without missing any slightest changes ...
'One minute to go!'
'Changjiang No.1 found the target!'...
"The firm voice of the controller broke the silence of the whole ship. Now, the target is captured 12 seconds ahead of the predicted time ...
'The air pressure in the cabin is normal!'
"Ten minutes later, the ship disappears below the horizon. Warm clapping and excited cheering breaks the night sky, echoing across the silent Pacific Ocean."