History Book – The Forbidden City, and the ISS

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, October 26th. You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re so glad you are! Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Next up on The World and Everything in It: the WORLD History Book.

Today, a legendary city, a celebrated liftoff, and the end of a tragic policy. Here is senior correspondent Katie Gaultney.


KATIE GAULTNEY, CORRESPONDENT: “Made in China.” It’s a phrase we’ve all heard, but of course it extends beyond Chinese imports. One of China’s most impressive creations is its biggest tourist attraction: the Forbidden City. For 500 years, this largest palace in the world was the seat of the Chinese royal family.

Tomorrow marks 600 years since the Ming Dynasty designated Beijing its capital upon the completion of the Forbidden City. 

China Central Television explains the name. 

CCTV: Until the 20th century, access to the inner precincts was prohibited to all males except the emperor and eunuchs. Trespassers in this palace met one fate: death.

The impressive complex contains nearly 10,000 rooms. Each building is constructed without a single nail or drop of glue. Instead, brackets and pegs hold the timbers together. The vast complex of palaces and administrative buildings covers 178 acres.


In an average year, 14 million visitors pass through the Meridian Gate to enter the Forbidden City. Last year, the palace complex was the world’s most visited museum. 

From the most populous country on earth to the final frontier… 


This Saturday marks 20 years since the launch of the spacecraft that carried the first resident crew to the International Space Station. 

CLIP: 3… 2… 1… We have ignition, we have ignition and liftoff, liftoff of the Soyuz rocket, beginning the first expedition to the International Space Station, and setting the stage for permanent human presence in space. 

The first crew to occupy the space station, Expedition 1, launched on October 31, 2000, in a Soyuz TM-31. Two days later, it docked with the International Space Station. NASA astronaut and first ISS commander Bill Shepherd and Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev made up that first crew.

A year ago, from aboard the orbiting station, Commander Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency recalled the early days of the ISS dream.

GERST: There was a time when some seemingly crazy optimists dreamt about this ISS project. Other people, calling themselves “realists,” said this was not possible. But more and more people understood the meaning of such a project and stood on the optimists’ side. 

Since then, an unbroken string of expeditions has seen the outpost host as many as 13 people for up to two weeks. Most long-duration crew sizes range from two to six people. The first ISS Commander, Bill Shepherd, reflected 10 years ago on the purpose of the space station era, and what the future may hold. 

SHEPHERD: Space Station is really about having humans see themselves with a place in the solar system, not on the earth, and the question is really, “How far can that go?” It’s up to us to figure out in the future what’s the answer. 


Back again to planet Earth, and where we started: China. 



Today marks five years since the country announced the repeal of its problematic “one-child policy,” making way for a new “two-child policy.” Chinese officials enacted the law in 1979, but just a couple of years later, the government decided to allow rural parents a second child if the first was a daughter. 

Urban families could only have one child. That led to a tremendous increase in abortions or abandonment, and the phenomenon known as “China’s lost daughters.” Actress Lisa Ling explained on the National Geographic Channel in 2006: 

LING: Over one quarter of all the babies adopted from abroad into this country come from China, and most are girls.

Chinese families preferred baby boys…

LING: …and as a result, girls are often abandoned, aborted, or hidden. 

At the announcement of the policy’s end in October 2015, a Chinese woman spoke to the BBC about the impossible position her government put her in. 

BBC: “I did fall pregnant for a second time,” Jeng Xinpeng tells me, “but I had an abortion. Did you have a choice?” “I couldn’t keep it,” she replies. “You either go willingly or the government comes for you.” 

During the 36 years of the one-child policy, China’s fertility restrictions likely stopped over 400 million births, due to families preventing pregnancy or choosing to end their unborn babies’ lives. The country now has up to 36 million more males than would be expected naturally, as a result.


That’s this week’s WORLD History Book. I’m Katie Gaultney.

(Photo/Public Domain) International Space Station (ISS), against darkness of space, photographed by STS-97 crew members onboard the approaching Space Shuttle Endeavour.

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