Chang'e probe moon landing should generate pride in technological progress

By Wang Yuanfeng Source:Global Times Published: 2013-12-16 19:58:01

China successfully landed the Chang'e-3 probe on the surface of the moon Saturday, becoming the third country in the world to independently carry out a soft landing on the moon after the US and the former Soviet Union. 

On Sunday, the moon rover Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, separated from the lander and left its footprints on the soil of this extraterrestrial body. The Chang'e-3 mission has earned straight A scores thus far.

Public opinions both at home and abroad have spoken highly of China's Chang'e-3 probe, casting a sharp contrast with their previous comments that China was just a copycat without innovation capabilities.

However, it should be noted that the success of the lunar mission is not a fluke, but the result of comprehensive progress and the integration of various subjects and disciplines.

In recent years, China has witnessed a series of major breakthroughs in science and technology, ranging from the docking target spacecraft Tiangong-1, the manned submersible Jiaolong and the Chang'e-3 probe, to the Tianhe-2 supercomputer.

Despite all these technological successes, many Chinese still lack confidence and pride in their country. Some of them contend that China keeps duplicating the accomplishments of Western nations. And some others complain that the funding for such a grand project should instead be used for improving people's well-being.

Nonetheless, investment in social welfare and progress in science and technology are not mutually exclusive.

It is irrational to demand that important scientific programs generate immediate effects.

Scientific studies require people's instinctive curiosity and a platform provided by society for researchers to freely conduct their experiments.

But cutting-edge programs will rarely succeed without concerted efforts and even transnational cooperation.

Though a long-term and arduous task, high-tech investment will bring fundamental changes to human society once it gets returns. Markets, however, are usually near-sighted since they are too eager for short-term rewards.

High-tech development constitutes a special mission of a big power.

In terms of scientific progress, small countries might be able to take advantage made by larger powers, but large nations including China cannot afford to end up merely a recipient of advanced technologies amid intense international competition.

The Chinese public should have full confidence in the science and technology of China, which has actually been making leaps and bounds.

It is predicted that China will likely surpass the US in terms of input into scientific research funds and the aggregate of the science citation index by 2025.

China developed atom and hydrogen bombs as well as man-made satellites during the 1960s and 1970s, when it faced with both internal economic difficulties and external pressures from the Cold War. Today's China should also have these kinds of scientific ambitions and strength.

The author is a professor at the Beijing Jiaotong University.

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