The Chinese public gathered to watch the highly-publicized launch of Tiangong-1 space lab on Thursday, and they were treated to a decidedly bizarre musical selection.

To celebrate the launch, the Chinese space agency and China Central Television (CCTV) -- the major state television broadcaster in mainland China -- released a proud animation of the Heavenly Palace set to the tune of -- wait for it -- America the Beautiful.

That's right, the song regarded by many as the unofficial national anthem of the U.S., which features lyrics like America! America! God shed his grace on thee, underscored one of the most important technological accomplishments in Chinese history.

America the Beautiful, composed by a New York church organist in 1882, has long been a favorite of U.S. patriots. It has even been proposed several times as a replacement for The Star Spangled Banner.

Millions tuned in to CCTV to watch the take-off on Thursday which featured an orchestrated version of the oh-so-American song.

At the time, I was eating in a hotel with foreigners from an American company and Chinese clients and we were watching the live broadcast, posted one user on Sina's Weibo - the Chinese twitter equivalent.

All the Chinese there wanted to disappear, the user added, seemingly embarrassed.

The music is in stark contrast to the choice back in 1970 when China launched its first rocket. That transmission was set to the anthem of the Cultural Revolution, The East is Red, which extolls the virtues of Chairman Mao and the Communist Party.

So why did America the Beautiful creep into the footage during the historic event?

I don't know how to answer your question, said Chen Zhansheng of the CCTV propaganda department. He was responding to a call from The Guardian (other news outlets' calls have gone unanswered).

I cannot help you, Zhansheng added.

CCTV posted the Tiangong-1 animation on the English version of their Web site, though they have since pulled it down. That suggests that somewhere within the bowels of the CCTV headquarters, discussions are taking place.

Was it the work of an idealist? A nationalist? Or was it simply a propaganda gaffe.

Those looking for a bit of irony in the events can take comfort in knowing that, at least for one night, the Chinese people were united with the Americans to crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.

Have a look at the video below:

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