Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Cross-Strait Relations in Space?

Some very interesting articles can be found simply by typing "Taiwan" into Google News (or your news aggregator of choice). A few days ago, we stumbled across this gem from "The Space Review: Essays and Commentary about the Final Frontier."

Writer Tyler Dinerman, in his article "China and Taiwan together on the space station," calls for both countries to be made participants in the International Space Station (ISS) partnership. China has already chalked up several successes independently sending humans into space (the China National Space Administration plans its first spacewalk later this year) and Dinerman suggests that China's Shenzhou space capsule could be adapted to dock with the station via either the U.S. or Russian mating systems. He further suggests that the last Space Shuttle mission might provide the perfect opportunity for some historic diplomacy in space:

"If China and Taiwan were to agree to fly to the ISS together they could take advantage of a series of opportunities, beginning with a possible participation by taikonauts from both nations in the possible final shuttle mission that may carry the AMS [Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer] to the station. Since the AMS contains parts made in both the PRC and on Taiwan, so this would fit nicely with the mission’s objectives."

Of course, such a rosy scenario would require all parties to overcome several sticking points to get there. Would the U.S. be comfortable with members from China's budding (and potentially rival) space program hitching a ride on the relatively advanced space shuttle, even though it is about to be decommissioned? Would a R.O.C. taikonaut flying with the Americans be too official of a Taiwan-U.S. exchange for China's taste?

Space missions have been used for diplomatic purposes before -- Apollo-Soyuz immediately comes to mind. Although this article is worth reading for no other reason than this new angle on the Taiwan-China-U.S. triangle relationship, it may be a while yet before a mission involving participants from all three countries takes place. But if it does, perhaps our common human curiosity and penchant for exploration will work its magic on one of the more strenuous relationships in international relations today.