I used to be very simple-minded and against the Chinese government launching space projects with astronomical (a suitable adjective, at least literally) amount of money when there are many children in rural areas unable to receive proper education. In my over simplistic mindset, the expenses of the government can be invested in many other ‘more urgent, essential’ areas, like improving education, fighting poverty, raising productivity, and so on, instead of those ‘useless, showing off’ areas, like space projects and gigantic constructions.
But I have also been a NASA fan since the first day I came to know its existence. I cheer for every NASA success and love all those NASA legends. Why I supported NASA but opposed Chinese space programmes could only be explained by my deep distrust in the Chinese government and the Communist Party.
Yet I was wrong. Gradually I have come to understand the importance of space projects, even if it is done by communists.
Space projects are not just showing off abilities and strength — in fact, it is the most expensive way to show off strength, so expensive that the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union had to come to a halt without conclusive winner. Space projects are more science oriented, rather than politics oriented; they are to benefit the whole human race, instead of a limited group of politicians.
The technologies developed for space programmes are mostly deployed in civil productions. Military industry of course would be benefited as well, but those benefits can be justified by the benefits bestowed onto the public. Even at the height of space race, NASA carried out scientific experiments and developed many technologies that we have taken for granted today.
The first artificial satellite of China was indeed an ideology propaganda tool, but that does not nullify the importance of Chinese space programmes in recent years. Time has changed.
However, no matter how much I support the space programmes, be it of NASA or Europe or China, I could not make myself agree to the propaganda elements in the Chinese media reports. ‘The hundred years of waiting ends! We Chinese have realized our dreams of flying to the space!’ Frankly that is nothing to be proud of if a country, who thinks highly of herself, can only manage to accomplish what the other countries have accomplished decades before. And talking about ‘dreams’, have the Chinese really dreamed of anything close to this? Those vague, bluffing, bragging, pretentious slogans only make supporters like me disgusted.