The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Friday, October 14, 2005

Science Friday: China flexes economic muscles via space program

I'm of a mind with physicist Robert Parks on this one. There are only two reasons for China to pursue a space program-- particuarly their much-touted moon shot. One is nationalism, the other is a show of strength. It certainly isn't about the science, because these missions are scientifically pointless.

Wednesday, in a demonstration of growing confidence in its human space-flight program, China launched two taikonauts on a five-day mission to low-Earth orbit, and did it in full view of the world. While Shenzhou VI poses no military threat, it is a demonstration of economic strength; China can now afford to squander vast sums on pointless programs. Happily, this serves world peace by diverting China's resources from more dangerous adventures.

Unlike the Soviet Union and their space program, China is getting massive amounts of capital directly from the United States, mostly in the form of outsourced jobs and federal debt. So while the Soviet Union really had to divert badly-needed money into efforts to look more advanced than the US, China can actually afford to throw all that cash away. Thanks to us.