The successful launch of the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft has attracted worldwide attention. People in some countries, while approving China's rapid progress in space technology, feel it a shame that their own role in space has largely slowed down. Such responses are generally normal. However, a recent article published by Foreign Policy, "Red Moon Rising," astoundingly depicts China's lunar exploration plan as first step toward a "moon colony."
The author, US professor John Hickman, predicts that Washington is wearing blinders if it thinks the 1968 Outer Space Treaty will prevent a Chinese lunar land grab. He believes Beijing might seek to assert extraterrestrial territorial sovereignty, effectively declaring part of the moon's surface Chinese territory.
The evidence Hickman cites is that Beijing plans to put a man on the moon by 2020, and its space agency has suggested establishing a base on the moon. Hickman comes to the conclusion, "let's not write off a Chinese moon colony as sheer fantasy."
If the logic of this article makes sense, then the US has long occupied the moon, as it landed Neil Armstrong there 43 years ago and planted its national flag. Even if China can put a man on the moon within one decade, it will still be half a century behind the US. US ambitions came much earlier.
In the 1990s, Wendell W. Mendell, a planetary scientist of NASA Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, proposed a detailed plan on building a large-scale moon base. In December 2006, NASA publicized part of its plan to return to the moon. Due to financial problems, the lunar probe project hasn't been put into play yet.
The article, while strongly questioning China's objectives in lunar exploration, demonizes China's plans, and calls for the US government to halt the Chinese ambition. "Unless steps are taken now to stop it, our children might someday look up to the night sky and really see a red moon rising."
This ludicrous, aggressive perspective discloses the distorted mentality of a few Americans facing the rapid rise of China. They actually see the moon, where the US put a man four decades ago, as US territory where other countries can't venture. This is a minority view, but a disturbing one.
Exploring the moon and outer space has been humanity's dream for millennia, and remains a common goal for many countries today. The US should be happy about other countries' space exploration. It should lay out more plans for joint exploration, rather than attempting to prevent other countries' space development plans.
The author is a researcher with the Equinox Institute in Shanghai. firstname.lastname@example.org