In the days before Sputnik, Wan-Hu, a Chinese official, strapped 47 rockets and two kites to a chair in an attempt to launch himself into space. When the smoke cleared, Wan-Hu was gone. There was no sign of his chair. No sign of his kites. No sign of the rockets other than some spilled gunpowder and burn marks on the ground. Wan-Hu left the Earth, and he was never seen again. Whether he left the Earth together or in pieces, one cannot say, but the man disappeared that night.
The hopeful and imaginative mind, untarnished by science, would believe Wan-Hu’s rocketry carried him into space. The combined force of 47 rockets accelerated him out the atmosphere and into the ether beside the moon. Perhaps the force had been so strong that he was thrust into the sky at the speed of light. Sent careening out of our solar system to explore the rest of the galaxy. Zooming by moons and planets and stars, his chair a galactic throne and he the celestial ruler. As he moved at the speed of light, delving into our photograph of space that once was, Wan-Hu left the Earth to age in his wake. Centuries passed as he traveled, untouched by time, seeing all the things our telescopes have yet to detect. Watching stars burst, planets form. Dark matter become colorful. Asteroids collaborate to form moons. Civilizations grow and crumble and rise again. Representing Earth as he comes into contact with other life. Becoming allies, forming friendships. Experiencing everything that our childhood minds dreamed and things our adult minds refused to believe. A being of the fourth dimension, Wan-Hu and his 47 rockets escaped our rock. While we look up to the stars and curse at our stagnant state, perhaps we may see him, floating on his kites beside Vanguard 1 and our cluster of satellites. We in our rocking chairs, he in his rocket chair.
But we cannot believe it. Sure, Wan-Hu left the Earth. He disappeared, not because he escaped into space, but because he was scattered into ten million pieces. Our crutch of science tells us he did not escape our galaxy. Our years of advanced arithmetic disprove the fantastic simplicity of 47 rockets, 2 kites, and a chair as means of exploring space. Our investment in the invention of science refuses to believe that Wan-Hu was successful. The second brains in our pockets can prove it. We believe it. We do not wonder about Wan-Hu because our smart phones tell us the truth. Science seeks to understand wonder, but the act of pursuing it can turn Wan-Hu to dust.
Imagination can put Wan-Hu into space.