Monday, December 23, 2013

Does China's Moon Landing Matter?

“Does China’s Moon Landing Matter?” was the title of a clip on Fox News as a panel of faux space experts bandied about the rhetorical question for around three minutes before coming up with a totally inane conclusion, obvious and not worth repeating here.

Vacuous drivel was not the way others regarded this event. “This is a very big deal indeed,” says lunar scientist Paul Spudis of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston. “Landing on the moon is not something easily attained—it requires precision maneuvering, tracking, computation and engineering. It is a delicate task and the Chinese success reflects a mature, evolving and capable program.”

After two fly-by missions to the moon, China was successful on its first attempt for a soft landing on the moon surface. They then launched the rover from the lander to roam and explore a part of moon that had not been visited by the Russians or Americans, predecessors who have also landed on the moon., the website that focuses on all matters relating to space exploration, listed China’s Chang’e-3 mission as the latest on the list of most marvelous moon missions from human kind.

"This is a great day for lunar science and exploration, with the first successful soft landing on the surface of the Moon since the Soviet Union did it in 1976," said Clive Neal, a leading lunar scientist from University of Notre Dame.

Not everyone was as effusive. The New Zealand’s Conservative Party leader, Colin Craig, joined the inevitable chorus of conspiracy doubters and publicly questioned whether the moon landing really took place.

While most of world sent their congratulatory messages to Beijing, NASA was conspicuously quiet. "What we have here is a situation where politics is certainly inhibiting good scientific cooperation and discovery because the NASA mission people are not allowed to communicate bilaterally with their Chinese counterparts," Neal said.

Congressman Frank Wolf has been the direct cause for NASA’s silence. Wolf is well known for his rabid anti China posture and because he chairs the House committee with funding authority over NASA, he runs NASA as if the agency is his personal fiefdom. (He also practiced vicious racial profiling against ethnic Chinese that worked as NASA contractors.) He enacted into law in 2011 that specifically forbad NASA from any contact with China’s counterparts, much less any semblance of joint cooperation.

Wolf’s “activism” has turned what should have been a platform for international scientific cooperation into another petty issue of politics. Even Russia and the U.S., heretofore rivals in the space race, have been able to conduct joint space research in the International Space Station, but China was specifically not invited to be among the 14 member nations.

However, instead of China on the outside looking in, soon it will be other nations looking to be invited by China to participate in their explorations. Both the US and Russia are cutting back their financial commitment for space research just when China has plans firmly in place to move forward.

Already, the European Space Agency has become a partner of China’s space agency by providing their deep space tracking stations to track and help monitor Chang'e 3’s lunar descent.  When Chang’e landing succeeded, the crew at Darmstadt Germany broke out in celebration along with their colleagues in Beijing.

Just about the only other nation contemplating an on-going space exploration program is India. On paper, India will put a man on the moon by 2020, about 4 years ahead of China. But that’s on paper, China has already accomplished landing an unmanned spacecraft and dispatching a rover while nada for India. 

After Beijing successfully staged the 2008 Olympics, India aspired to do the same kind of hosting with the 2010 Commonwealth Games, except the outcome became a scandal ridden embarrassment. Some of the vendors even had trouble getting their equipment out of India as the organizers wanted to hold on to scoreboards and other appliances of value for ransom.

Going forward, whether India will deliver remains to be seen but certainly China will continue to ignite the earthling’s imagination as they continue their program for space exploration. What we won’t remember will be the buffoons on Fox, or alleged national leader like Colin Craig of New Zealand and the obstructionist like Frank Wolf.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Case of Su Haiping vs. The United States

I have frequently written about Chinese Americans victimized due to racial profiling by American law enforcement agencies. Dr. Su Haiping was one such victim. As reported by the San Jose Mercury News, his case has finally come to trial after nearly 6 years. Some of the proceedings in court has been reported by the World Journal, the national daily in Chinese, and I have provided a translation below.

Court Case on (violation of) Privacy Rights Opens, Su Haiping Asking $5.2 Million Compensation.

Lawyers for UCSC agriculture scientist Su Haiping on December 6 accuse US government of invasion of his rights to privacy, pointing out that after FBI concluded that Su represent security risk, the management of NASA Ames reveal the findings to Su’s co-workers and at the same time took away Su’s access to Ames Research Center. (Thus) causing heavy damage to Su’s professional reputation and his psychological wellbeing. Representative for the plaintiff is asking compensation of $5.2 miillion from the federal government.

Su’s invasion of privacy case occurred in 2008, at the time when he was working as one of expert analysts for UCSC’s University Affiliated Research Center. The principal source of funding was from NASA. At the time, Su had already been working at the Ames Research Center for nearly 3 years.

Government attorney countered that the difficulty of determining the invasion of a person’s privacy is very high, because such cases involves under what circumstances, to whom and what was said. According to court documents, defendant denied invasion of Su’s rights to privacy. Furthermore, the government attorney believes that disclosures by FBI and NASA were not very harmful to Su, because even though he can no longer go to Ames to work, he remained employed by UCSC.

Su’s case began in July of 2007 when he filled personal information on e-QIP for the purpose of getting NASA approval for facility entry in 2008. After submitting to NSA, he received the entry pass in January 2008 uneventfully. According to Su’s attorney, e-QIP was a new tool used by the government to check on staff after 9-11.

Michael Reedy, Su’s attorney, pointed out that NASA never obtained Su’s permission before turning over the completed e-QIP form to FBI. Defense objected and Davila, the presiding judge, ruled that the hearing does not include the e-QIP matter.

Beginning February 2008, FBI agent Sherman Kwok along with NASA personnel interviewed Su twice, both times in a windowless room at the (Ames) research center.

On March 21, 2008, Su went to Oakland to undertake a FBI administered lie detector test. Su was distraught after the test. According to court documents, FBI agent Kwok told Su that the lie detector results were not good, but there were no means to do a retest. The results were sent on to NASA.

According to Su’s testimony on December 5, June 24 2008 was a unforgettable day in his memory. On that day, Robert Dolci, head of NASA Ames security gave Su a letter signed by Dolci. The letter stated that according to results of investigations, the center considers Su a security risk to NASA’s intellectual property and thus is revoking his access to Ames research center (and the right to work there).