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Zheng He, Again

It's predictable as clockwork. Whenever space policy raises itself to public awareness, one can always count on someone to warn us about the lessons of the Ming Dynasty. This time, Orville Schell does it in the WaPo.

As usual, the talk is about "space exploration" (as though that's the only purpose to send people into space, and as though the Shuttle and ISS have much to do with "exploration"). Once again, the great tragedy and decline of China is discussed as though it was caused by the ending of the treasure fleets, rather than the latter being simply the symptom of much deeper problems, and largely a waste of money, anyway.

For new readers, my thoughts on Zheng He and the analogy with space exploration can be found here.

[Via Thomas James]

Posted by Rand Simberg at March 03, 2003 11:07 AM
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I'm running a poll using the items listed in John McNight's Why We Fly article. So far "Exploration" is leading. But so far none of the respondents have been able to define "exploration" as a reason. There's always an underlying reason "use the resource we find", "see if we can live there", etc.

And that's because "exploration" is an action. Not a reason. Any action has to have a motivating reason behind it. Even people that run do it because it makes them feel good. No one runs just for that reason alone. So saying exploration is a reason to go into space is simply silly.

Posted by at March 3, 2003 12:18 PM

Mr. Schell starts out with this statement....
I am among those who would be more likely to call for our country to spend its limited resources on education, medical care and environmental problems rather than the exploration of outer space.

He could have stopped there, and not written another word. No matter what is said pro-space he will be against it. He, I am sure, would rather we all live in caves and eat vegetables so as not to bother the earths resources or poor put upon animals. Oh, and we have to find a cave no bear, weasel, badger, rat, mouse, bat, swallow etc. wants, because thay should have first choice.

If these people really wanted the earth to become pristine again they would be for massive off world migrations.

Posted by Steve at March 3, 2003 01:36 PM

I also found that article intensely frustrating-- always the old dichotomy: something like the Shuttle program, or nothing.

On the net, lots of people have been putting in their two cents about what should be done to send people into space instead of the Shuttle. I don't know whether Rand's preferred future is the answer, or some of the almost diametrically opposed programs others have been proposing, such as a massive government Mars landing program.

But I do know that the NASA Shuttle/ISS approach isn't the way to do it, and that's been clear for a long, long time.

Posted by Matt McIrvin at March 4, 2003 04:59 PM

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