Enlarge / Combination photo taken on Nov. 9, 2016 shows Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) talks with the two astronauts, Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong, in the space lab Tiangong-2. (credit: Xinhua/Ju Peng/Li Tao via Getty Images)
After the Soviet Union flew the Sputnik 1 satellite in 1957, US President Dwight Eisenhower established NASA.
There was some question at the time as to whether the US space agency would be militaristic in nature or civil, promoting the peaceful use of space for exploration and science.
Eisenhower made clear his preference for the latter, and this proved a wise decision as NASA has projected US soft power through achievement and apolitical cooperation ever since.
China’s space program, on the other hand, is not as independent from the Communist Party of China or the country’s military programs.
This association has led some members of Congress to forbid NASA from working directly with the Chinese space agency, due to concerns about technology theft and other potential problems.
That being said, the degree to which some taikonauts express their fidelity to the Communist party is still striking.
During the 19th National Congress of the CPC this weekend, three-time taikonaut Jing Haipeng expressed his desire to fly in space for a fourth time. “I’m eager to go to space again, be a pioneer in the battle one more time,” the 51-year-old major general said, according to Xinhua.
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