Surprisingly for two countries in the middle of a trade war, the space agencies of America and China have indicated that they may be entering a new age of cooperation. This would be a remarkable U-turn for the US, which in 2011 banned Nasa from cooperating with the Chinese state without prior congressional approval.
This month there was data collaboration with Nasa when China became the first country to land a probe on the dark side of the moon. Nasa administrator James Bridenstine has said this kind of science is in the interest of all humanity, not something any one country should try to retain for itself. Humanity would indeed benefit from an internationalist spirit in space. Moreover setting up a human colony on the moon, which would in turn serve as a bridgehead for future manned missions to Mars and beyond, would be a significant step beyond landing a man on the moon – which was the last time a space mission captured the global imagination and occurred half a century ago.
Such an expansive, and expensive, project may well be beyond the resources and capacities of one nation and therefore requires international collaboration. It’s worth noting that Isro is nowhere in the reckoning here for such ground-breaking collaborative projects that would make for the next giant leap for mankind, the fundamental reason for which is that Chinese science has leapt far ahead of Indian science in the last quarter century or so. Blame that on India’s broken education system to which the last editorial refers, which accounts not just for relative lack of advancement of space missions but also why India clocks in at 145th among 193 nations in terms of per capita income.