Saturday, September 27, 2008
Let them eat moon cake
China's spacewalk breakthrough is a reminder of how off-course the U.S. space program has flown since the heady days of the moon landing 40 years ago. Just hearing about overjoyed Chinese people celebrating their country's accomplishment as the third nation to walk in space brought back memories of the contribution of the United States in the search for knowledge about the universe, before NASA reduced the program to a search for revenue-generating spaceflights. To be sure, NASA still launches ships to explore the planets -- maybe once a year. But its primary focus for decades has been the now-crippled space shuttle program, which apparently was designed not to travel on the path of international cooperation but to perform tasks in weightlessness for big corporations. As it turns out, China launched its space program, aimed at creating its own space station, because it was blocked by the United States and other Western nations from being part of the International Space Station due to concerns about technology sharing. But China's feat also shows that the people running the world's most-populated nation are highly sensitive to their country's reputation, both domestically and internationally. CNN reported that China's government-controlled media has reported on the space flight extensively, to the point of precluding coverage of the embarrassing and presumably criminal contaminated milk scandal.