Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on November 21, 2006
Forget for a moment the heated rivalry between China and India. With Hu Jintao now in India, the theme for this week is cooperation. Maybe that’s why a top Chinese scientist has told an Indian reporter that the two countries - both of which have plans to send missions to the Moon - should be pooling their resources on a joint effort in space. The Indian Express reporter, Pallava Bagla, interviews Wu Ji, identified as the “chief scientist for the Chinese space science research and Director for the Center for Space Science and Applied Research (CSSAR) in Beijing.” According to Bagla, Wu says that India and China should team up in space. “It is not like the Cold War (days), relations between the two countries are getting better and better. We certainly wish to have collaboration with India and we should find more opportunities to talk with the India space agency,” Wu tells the newspaper.
Bagla goes on to quote an Indian official, J N Goswami, director of the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, saying that “a joint investigation in science which is well focused and transparent will be helpful.”
No doubt it would be great if the Chinese and Indians could pull this off. It took the Americans and the Russians decades to get to the point where astronauts and cosmonauts were working closely together. Rather than simply staging a 21st-century update of the U.S.-Soviet space race, Asia’s emerging powers could show that they’ve learned from the Westerners’ expensive mistakes by fast-forwarding to the era of cooperation. That would allow them to take advantage of talent on both sides and save money that they could use for other types of development. For all their economic growth and hi-tech aspirations, China and India certainly have better ways to spend billions of dollars than on a costly space race. Given the amount of distrust on both sides, though, folks like Wu and Goswami have their work cut out for them. But for this week, at least, we’re allowed to daydream.