(via APS – What’s New by Bob Park – October 17, 2003)
On Wednesday, China successfully launched the Shenzhou-5 space capsule into orbit with taikonaut Yang Liwei on board and returned him safely to Earth after 14 orbits. The first American to reach orbit, John Glenn, circled Earth a mere three times in the Mercury-5 capsule – 3 years before Yang was born. And this is only the beginning; China hopes eventually to construct a permanent base on the moon. Americans should welcome China’s new direction. Sending humans into space offers no military, economic, or scientific advantage; rather it’s a symbolic demonstration that China has arrived as an economic power and can now afford to waste vast sums of money. Perhaps the U.S. could help by offering China complete plans for the space shuttle. This would serve the cause of world peace by diverting China’s resources from more dangerous adventures.
While I don’t completely agree with Dr. Park’s opinion on manned space exploration (though I do think NASA’s manned space program for the past 20 years or so has been pretty pointless), I thought this was pretty good.