I refer to the debate among your readers regarding the merits of the human space flight program in China ('Lost in space', November 4).
One important mission of such flights is beyond national pride and prestige or even exploring for minerals on distant planets.
The mission is to carry out scientific research that has numerous near-term and long-term impacts on medical science and engineering. The outcome of past space programs is the origin of many important medical and engineering innovations that have brought economic and health benefits to the human race.
The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration has an excellent website outlining the experiments and impact of space programs: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/station/science/index.html.
In addition, the basic assumption that China just developed something that the US and Russia has already done a long time ago is wrong in two ways.
First, the applications in human space flight might look the same but the technologies are not the same. Second, these technologies are highly proprietary and it is unlikely that the US will share them with the Chinese without China paying high licensing fees.
Most importantly, the main benefits of spinning off such technologies into medical and other uses will not accrue if we simply 'use' or 'copy' others' technologies.
With more countries joining in the human space flight exploration effort, there will be more competition scientifically. This is a good thing for all of us.
Many readers might not object to sports competitions between nations, which do not seem to bring economic or health benefit to the rest of us. How much better scientific explorations in outer space?
The fundamental desire to better ourselves, to seek more knowledge is what makes us human.
In many ways, China has suffered from the lack of interest in scientific exploration in the last few centuries. Though not the only one, the space program is surely an efficient way to open the minds of its people.
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