Representative Frank Wolf (R–VA) is a harsh critic of the Chinese government for its trade policies as well as its treatment of minorities, religious groups, and political activists. He's also no fan of their space program, which plans to land humans on the moon by 2020.
This morning, as a member of the House spending panel that oversees NASA's budget, Wolf got a chance to combine his enmity toward the world's most populous country with his concern that U.S. leadership in space might be eroding. Looking to rally support for NASA's manned exploration program, Wolf asked Ralph Cicerone, president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, if he would "bet" on China's plans to "beat us back to the moon."
But Cicerone, to Wolf's chagrin, didn't play along. "I wouldn't bet against it," Cicerone replied. "But I wouldn't be too worried about it, either." He made it clear that he didn't think going back to the moon should be a priority for U.S. science. "I wouldn't want NASA to turn itself upside down to go there, for unknown purposes. So I wouldn't be too upset if the Chinese went there on their own."