I found my way into the student canteen this morning. It was a little late and I was still groggy from either too little or too much sleep. I bought my bao and soy milk at the counter and turned around to exit back to my apartment. Something was wrong though; I saw a crop field of students lined sitting should to shoulder looking at a TV. Now, normally, there are but a few late students who don’t have morning classes lingering in the canteen at this hour. Today, it was packed. What could they possibly be watching? The series finale of Friends? Last year’s Academy Awards? The South-Asia earthquake aftermath in Northern India?
No, they were riveted to the space launch of the two person Chinese capsul to the International Space Station. For the longest time (before the Shuttle grounding), you’d be lucky if any major network in the United States would televise a live launch but here, going to space is a big deal. It represents Chinese innovation, technology, and science. Students watch, captivated by the earth graphics and the live shots. It inspires them to become scientists and engineers.
Trent Walker and I had a conversation over dinner on the topic of whether a U.S. space program to the moon (again) and then to Mars would be “worth it.” I said that it was a start to at least have a large goal but that the next generation of kids in the U.S. need something more to inspire them to pursue science and math. Chinese students seem to already have that spark of interest because China is just beginning with experimentation in space.