China is currently ramping up its space program with visions of a brighter and friendlier future out in the cosmos, for evidence that we are standing at the dawn of a new age, one Chinese official apparently looks to a recent Hollywood blockbuster.
In 2011, citing security concerns, the US Congress banned NASA from working with its Chinese counterpart, but Xu Dazhe, head of China’s National Space Administration, sees signs that this is all likely to change (via Reuters):
When I saw the U.S. film ‘The Martian’, which envisages China-U.S. cooperation on a Mars rescue mission under emergency circumstances, it shows that our U.S. counterparts very much hope to cooperate with us.
However, it’s very regrettable that, for reasons everyone is aware of, there are currently some impediments to cooperation.
These reasons that everyone is aware of are that the US doesn’t trust China’s intentions in space. While China has said that its space program is only for peaceful purposes, the Pentagon thinks it is more likely being used to develop high-tech weapons, and so has backed laws that have excluded Chinese astronauts and researchers from the International Space Station and Cape Canaveral
However, another Chinese official, Zhou Jianping, believes that China has an important role to play and contribution to make in mankind’s exploration of the unknown (via Shanghai Daily).
The future of space exploration lies in international cooperation. It’s true for us, and for the United States too.
It is well understood that the United States is a global leader in space technology. But China is no less ambitious in contributing to human development. Cooperation between major space players will be conducive to the development of all mankind.
To mark China’s first “Space Day” yesterday, Chinese President Xi Jinping has also lent his voice, calling on Chinese scientists and engineers to “usher in a new chapter in aerospace development” to make a greater contribution to the country’s growth, as well as “the welfare of mankind.” Beijing says its space program is under a “military-civil” development strategy that serves national security and economic interests, but all in support of “world peace.”
As part of this effort, Xu announced that China is preparing to launch a probe and rover to Mars in 2020, reaching the planet in 2021. In 2018, it will also launch a “core module” for its first space station, planned to be operation in 2022. Btw, this is all being done without help from NASA.
While Xu’s statement may seem a bit odd, we already know that those in charge of China’s space program look to Hollywood for inspiration. Last year, they unveiled a new space robot, which happens to look suspiciously like Iron Man.
“The Martian” did quite well in the Chinese box office, becoming the highest grossing film in China for two weeks in a row late last year. The pro-Chinese space program plot points were already in the book that the film was based on, providing a nice bonus for marketing in the world’s second-largest box office.
However, despite the comparative scientific accuracy of the movie, some astrophysicists still criticized the film for some serious leaps of faith:
Evidence that the @MartianMovie is fantasy: The USA & China cooperate with one another in Space.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) October 2, 2015
So, it appears that the only way we will get true international cooperation in space is to strand Matt Damon on the surface of an inhospitable planet. Sorry, Matt Damon, it’s for the good of all mankind.