a write up by Mark Elliott in a travel weekly:
It was reported last week that China may be ready to launch a manned space mission to the moon by Protected content . Excellent news of course, though it does beg one question: why?
What does the moon have left to offer? It’s pretty obvious that, as a holiday destination, it isn’t the most exciting of places (if you like barren landscapes, surely Belgium’s a lot closer), and haven’t we collected and tested enough samples of grey dust to last us? But of course, China’s real aim in putting a man on the moon isn’t scientific; it’s about enhancing its global status. Just as the USA and USSR used the moon as a political winning post last century, so China is now trying to stamp its authority on the world by winning its own one-team race.
So what will it mean to the world if China does plant a flag on the moon? Will it by rights own a strategic stake in the planet? Apparently not; according to the UN Treaty on Outer Space, nobody can own the moon. But we humans do love a good flag. It’s the political equivalent of the schoolyard “baggsy” (or whatever it was called in your school) – reserving by touch something you have no actual
Comedian Eddie Izzard once spoke of how the British Empire was formed entirely “with the cunning use of flags”, while in Protected content famously planted a fl ag on the Arctic seabed, claiming the rather tenuous argument that as it was attached to Russia it was therefore an extension of its territory (by which argument I could surely lay claim to my neighbour’s flowerbeds).
So why is China planning a trip to the moon? Well, it could be as George Mallory said when asked why he was about to climb Mount Everest; “because it’s there”. Or, perhaps more to the point, ‘because they can’.
Whatever the reason, good luck to them. China’s expedition is definitely exciting. It’s been far too long since us earthlings took a trip to our nearest neighbour, and the fact that it’s doing so China is a symbolic refl ection of our changing world, and a fantastic achievement not just for the Chinese, but for all of Asia.
Let’s just hope they forget to pack the flags.