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Sitting Out a Space Race

Okay, it isn’t Sputnik, but the fact that there are two Chinese astronauts in low Earth orbit should be a wakeup call.  Not because the Soyuz-based Shenzhou 6 is a technological marvel (It isn’t; Shenzhou is Mandarin for “Plymouth Valiant”), but because the ChiComs are pushing ahead with their space ambitions in spite of having hundreds of millions of citizens living on $1 a day, some of them not far from industrial cities so shrouded in smog they’re not even visible from space.  In other words, they’re acting as though something depended on it.

By sorry contrast, a messy hurricane and an inept NASA are enough to knock out our space ambitions entirely.

Is it too much to ask for some anguished wailing and gnashing of teeth?  I wish, for example, that there were more three-alarm assessments like this one:

“Both Russia and China have their own military space agendas, and especially manned lunar plans, the challenge of which the U.S. is incapable of matching or exceeding,” said Charles Vick, a senior fellow at the defense information Web site GlobalSecurity.org.

“They are challenging the U.S. predominance on the world stage because it is their belief doctrinally that the U.S. is a has-been world power that can and will be replaced by China along with other nations.”

If honest self-assessments are required to pay serious attention again to math and science education, the colossal damage to self-esteem may be worth it. Ah, never mind.  Go back to sleep.

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Mr. Moffat is a freelance writer in Bethesda, Md.

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