The Great Wall of China is a cultural and historical treasure, known to be the only human-made structure visible from space. However, despite its significance, this common belief is incorrect. In this article, we will debunk this popular myth, understand where it originated from, and learn more about the Great Wall of China.
The Origin of the Myth
The Great Wall of China is a popular tourist attraction in China and one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. It is not clear how this myth originated or when it first surfaced. Some sources speculate that it might have been popularized in a book published in 1932 called “The Outline of History” written by H.G. Wells. In this book, Wells wrote that the wall was “the only work of human hands which would be visible from the moon.” This statement was later changed and expanded to “visible from space” through various media outlets, including books, TV shows, and the Internet.
The Truth behind the Myth
Contrary to popular belief, the Great Wall of China is not visible from space, at least not with the unaided eye. The wall stretches for over 13,000 miles throughout northern China, but at its widest point, it is only 30 feet. The wall is also not straight and has numerous curves. Its color and texture are the same as the surrounding terrain, making it indistinguishable from space without the aid of technology.
Further research shows that even low earth orbit, which is closer to Earth than the moon, requires a specific location, timing, and atmospheric conditions to capture an image of the Wall. The first image of the wall from space was taken by an astronaut named Edward H. White II during his Gemini 4 mission in 1965. He used a stabilized camera to capture the image, which was then enhanced to show the wall’s faint outline.
Another notable instance where the Great Wall was captured from space was by the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1993. The image, though more detailed than the one captured in 1965, was still not visible without enhancement.
The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is a series of fortified walls, watchtowers, and natural barriers that was constructed in ancient China to protect its people from invading attacks. There are several walls that have been constructed throughout Chinese history, but the most famous and well-known is the Great Wall built during the Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644).
The wall was constructed over a period of 200 years and took over a million workers to complete. The Great Wall stretches from Shanhaiguan in the east of China to Lop Nur in the west, cutting through deserts, mountains, and grasslands. At its peak, it was over 20 feet high and 30 feet wide. The wall also has watchtowers and fortresses constructed at strategic intervals to allow soldiers to patrol and keep an eye out for invading enemies.
The wall was built as a defense mechanism, but it was not always successful. There were several instances where the wall was breached, including during the Mongol invasion in the 13th century. The wall was not designed to stop attacks entirely, but rather to slow the invading army down, allowing enough time for reinforcements to arrive. Along with being a defense mechanism, the Great Wall also served as a communication network, allowing for the transmission of information across large distances.
In conclusion, the Great Wall of China is an iconic wonder that attracts millions of tourists every year. However, the myth of it being visible from space is untrue. It requires specific conditions and technology to capture an image of the Wall from space, and it is indistinguishable without enhancement. The Great Wall of China is more than just a wall; it is an architectural and engineering marvel that is a testimony to the Chinese civilization’s creativity and ingenuity.