August 29, 2007
Written by C.N.
The historical rivalry between China and Japan has existed for centuries, perhaps even millennia, whether it relates to military power back in feudal times or political and economic superiority today in the 21st century. Now, as the Associated Press/Salon.com reports, their rivalry has literally been taken to a new level as both countries compete to launch space missions to the moon:
With Asia’s biggest powers set to launch their first unmanned lunar missions — possibly as early as next month — the countdown has begun in the hottest space race since the United States beat the Soviet Union to the moon nearly four decades ago. . . .
Officials have tried to play down the importance of beating each other off the pad, but their regional rivalry is never far below the surface. “I don’t want to make this an issue of win or lose. But I believe whoever launches first, Japan’s mission is technologically superior,” said Yasunori Motogawa, an executive at JAXA, Japan’s space agency. “We’ll see which mission leads to the scientific breakthroughs.” . . .
Regional powers India, South Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan all have satellites in orbit. North Korea says it sent one up with its 1998 ballistic missile launch. . . . [Japan's moon mission] involves placing a main satellite in orbit around the moon and deploying two smaller satellites in polar orbits to study the moon’s origin and evolution. . . . China’s Chang’e 1 orbiter will use stereo cameras and X-ray spectrometers to map three-dimensional images of the lunar surface and study its dust.
This competition to reach the moon first should not be a surprise to anyone who knows something about the relationship between China and Japan. They are two economic and political superpowers (and in China’s case, also a military power) who now also want to be known as a superpower in space exploration.
Like two brothers constantly trying to outdo the other, rather than stopping at the moon, these space missions are only the beginning — or the continuation — of their long-established rivalry to gain more status and prestige over the other.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Race to Space Between China and Japan" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/08/race-to-space-between-china-and-japan/> ().
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