Margaret Weitekamp, assistant professor of women's studies, was a guest essayist in the Oct. 16 Finger Lakes Times, with an article on China's first taikonaut titled “Chinese pilot enters world space history.”
“China sees becoming a space-faring power as advancing its place on the world stage,” wrote Weitekamp. “As a result, however, China's neighbors see the human spaceflight as a dangerous sign. A nation's ability to launch a satellite or a person safely always reflects that nation's concomitant ability to deliver a weapon accurately. Because the military runs China's closely-guarded space program, this flight makes India and other neighboring nations nervous. The unmanned capsules that preceded Yang's launch reportedly carried military electronic-intelligence packages. Yang's schedule will include photographing the Earth below — a mission objective that can bend either towards science or reconnaissance.
“When Yang returns to Earth, his mission will no longer be technological or scientific but political. Decades into the space age, the issues raised by a pioneering human spaceflight remain the same as they were in the early 1960s: national prestige, international response, and potential military applications.”