Rockets were a Chinese invention arising from experiments with gunpowder. For many centuries gunpowder remained the sole propellant, and rockets were only sporadically used in warfare. The “rockets’ red glare” mentioned in the national anthem of the United States was produced by British artillery rockets in the War of 1812.

rock3 rock1 rock2

During the early years of the 20th century scientists and engineers began building bigger and better rockets using other types of fuel. World War II saw the development of the rocket into the guided missile and ended with the introduction of atomic weapons.

h. 20mm  w. 30mm   2.4g

h. 20mm  w. 32mm   3.2g

h. 21mm  w. 31mm   2.3g

space3 space7 space2 space1 space 6 space4

50mm   10.8g

35mm   4.3g

47mm   8.9g

40mm   6.7g

The space rockets and satellites depicted on Maozhang are primarily emblems of modernity and national pride.

The satellites, which at the time the badges were made in the late 1960s represented Chinese aspirations rather than approval of the Soviet Union, mostly have the distinctive basketball-with-aerials shape of Sputnik I - a shape that had very rapidly achieved a world-wide recognition factor.

45mm   7.4g

43mm   5.9g

64mm   21.1g

The People’s Republic of China subsequently emerged under the technological umbrella of the Soviet Union. Following the abrupt withdrawal of Soviet assistance in 1960, China continued to develop these technologies independently. Having joined the elite “nuclear club” of nations in 1967, China aspired to join the equally elite “space club”. This goal was finally achieved with the launch of the “East is Red” satellite in 1970, after Mao badge production had largely ceased.