The Chinese government today landed an unmanned robotic rover on the moon. The successful landing marks the high point of China’s space program, and signals China’s continued ascendency in global politics. Much like the US moon landings, China’s lunar program is an important political statement.
The US space program was pushed forward by the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the result of a dramatic increase in spending on science and education after the USSR beat the US into space by launching Sputnik.
Today, US spending on its space program is at historic lows. The decommissioning of the Space Shuttle program left the United States dependent on other countries—most notably Russia—to ferry US astronauts to and from the international space station.
Is China’s space program emblematic of a new Cold War between the United States and China? Might China’s recent successes spark a renewed interest in space exploration in the United States? Might it also rekindle US investment in education?