History urges the U.S. and China to cooperate in space
Updated 11:13, 07-Jul-2022
Keith Lamb
The NASA Artemis rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen on pad 39B during sunset at the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, June 27, 2022. /CFP

The NASA Artemis rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen on pad 39B during sunset at the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, June 27, 2022. /CFP

Editor's note: Keith Lamb is a University of Oxford graduate with a Master of Science in Contemporary Chinese Studies. His primary research interests are China's international relations and "socialism with Chinese characteristics." The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Recent claims by The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) administrator Bill Nelson that China might "take over" the moon, along with other concerns about China developing space technology, were met with comments from Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian who said that such talk was "reckless" and "false." He went on to urge the U.S. “to step up to its responsibility as a major country, reflect on and rectify its negative moves and statements about outer space, and make its due contribution to safeguarding enduring peace and security in space.”

China doesn't want dominance; it wants equality. When it comes to space exploration, China seeks to work with the U.S. As such, talk of China taking over the moon is nothing but hysteria to drum up the "China threat." For example, in 2011 the U.S. officially barred China from visiting the International Space Station (ISS). Apparently, China's space agency was viewed as too inexperienced to offer any useful contributions. However, this was an excuse as China soon developed its own space station, but still, the U.S. refused to cooperate.

Undoubtedly, the U.S. fears collaboration with China could lead to China acquiring technology that will allow it to catch up with the U.S. giving it another inroad to challenge U.S. hegemony. However, China is doing just fine developing its technology without the U.S. as evidenced by its Tiangong-1 space station and its landing on the dark side of the moon.

While China's accomplishments are admirable, space exploration does not come cheap. Doubling up on costs represents a tremendous waste of resources and impacts the environment. Furthermore, the moral case for cooperation is clear. All humanity shares the earth and is conditioned by the same planetary and extra-terrestrial dilemmas.

Simply put, we are all in the same boat or rather the same "speck of dust" floating through the infinity of space. From this perspective, the U.S. acting as a nation in its quest for global hegemony of our "speck" sounds fool headed. When we explore space, we must do so primarily for the good of the earth, not a single nation.

If the magnitude of space in relation to the speck, albeit a precious speck, that is humanity's only earthly domain, doesn't convince you of the need for unity then a look at the long geological time frame might. Today we don't just face the threat of civilization-ending events through human-caused potentialities, like nuclear war and environmental destruction, there are also pressing life-ending events that are currently out of humanity's control. A look through the earth's geological past shows that the earth has suffered numerous cataclysms that have come from out of space.

Planets Jupiter and Venus in conjunction rise before sunrise behind Rocca Calascio castle, Italy, April 30, 2022. /CFP

Planets Jupiter and Venus in conjunction rise before sunrise behind Rocca Calascio castle, Italy, April 30, 2022. /CFP

Large asteroids are a constant threat and present a challenge to human civilization and the human species. 65 million years ago a huge asteroid measuring 10-15 kilometers across crashed into today's Mexico. Known as the Chicxulub Event, it wiped out 70 percent of all species, including the dinosaurs. The "Planetary Society" details that the event led to a mega-tsunami up to the Great Plains; the entire earth's forests burnt, and ash covered the earth leading to its cooling.

Large meteorites hitting the earth are not uncommon. The Russian Tunguska impact of 1908 knocked down an estimated 80 million trees over a 2,000 square kilometer area. This meteorite, equivalent to over 1,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs, was only 30 meters wide and exploded above the ground. As such, even a relatively small asteroid could wipe out a few cities.

Mounting evidence suggests that human civilization is much older than we believe. The renegade archaeologist Graham Hancock theorizes that ancient human civilizations, wiped from the historical record, have risen and fallen numerous times. The discovery, in 1995, of the Gobekli Tepe megalith structure, in Turkey backs up this claim. Carbon-dating shows it is 12,000 years old and so its existence transforms our understanding of the technological achievements of "primitive man."

Certainly, on one hand, humanity can go from horse-drawn agricultural societies to spacefaring nations within decades. On the other hand, a large asteroid could remove and reset all human progress in a lightening flash. With this in mind perhaps there could be a hint of truth in the tales of the Vedas or the legend of Atlantis.

Indeed, scientific evidence shows that roughly 12,900 years ago, a massive global cooling, known as the Younger Dryas period, abruptly kicked in which led to the extinction of 35 different mammal species, including the mammoth. Coincidentally, nanodiamonds and iridium in the sediment correlating with this era point to a massive meteor impact.

China, despite being in its early days of space exploration, is aware of this danger. It announced in April of this year that it intends to build an asteroid monitoring and defense system which will protect satellites from incoming meteorites as well as the Earth from an asteroid impact. The U.S. is also working on a similar but separate project.

However, an asteroid strike is a random event. A large civilization or city destroying asteroid strike could come now or in a thousand years. Consequently, the U.S. and China must cooperate immediately on the external risks from space as they do so on man-made earthly environmental risks which are far more relevant than "taking over the moon."

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