October 14, 2003

Great Leap Forward?

China has launched its first manned space mission.

Yang Liwei, a 38 year old lieutenant colonel in the People's Liberation Army was the sole passenger on the Shenzhou V, following in the steps of Yuri Gagarin and John Glenn as his country's first representative in orbit (remember, Alan Shepherd did not achieve orbit). Rand Simberg is ambivalent.

I am too, in a way. On the one hand, I am always excited to see more people in space. The child in me still envisions myself in the capsule of that rocket. I of course hope the mission goes well and that the Taikonaut (or, more appropriately, Yuhangyuan) returns safely to Earth.

I am happy for China and hope that, like the space race in the 1960s between the US and USSR, this is a peaceful way for China to assert its nationalism, as opposed to invading its neighbors. In a sense, this also creates competition, which is usually a good thing. But it is competition among socialist space programs (and I class NASA as a socialist space program), so I have mixed feelings about the long-term value of this venture. I am happy, paradoxically, that the Chinese effort appears to have quite a bit of involvement by the Chinese military because I would like to see the US military spurred to take more ownership of our governmental space efforts. (Others do too, perhaps. . .)

Long term, I am convinced that humans will only expand into orbit and beyond if it makes economic sense to the individuals doing it. The conventional wisdom has long been that space is too expensive or too hard for private efforts. Several entrepreneurs are out to prove that wisdom wrong. And their first flights are the ones I am truly excited to see.

Posted by JohnL at October 14, 2003 10:16 PM
Save This Page