Thailand wants to reach for the stars and send a satellite to orbit Luna, but not everyone is over the moon about the idea.
An education minister’s announcement that Thailand would build its own lunar spacecraft and launch facility within seven years – at an added expense to taxpayers – provoked those choking on more earthly matters to question his priorities.
“At a time when the PM 2.5 [pollution] can’t even be solved, you still dare to talk about the moon?” tweeted Vanvaree Talomsin, an opposition MP with the Move Forward Party, referring to smog crisis which hit a new high this morning, dropping Bangkok to rank the world’s third-worst in air quality.
The idea was raised Monday by Anek Laothamatas – minister of higher education, science, research and innovation. During a news conference on a domestic COVID-19 vaccine, he suddenly launched into a tangent on another government project: sending a spacecraft to orbit the moon.
While few details were revealed by the 66-year-old minister, if they exist, Anek said the spacecraft would launch by January 2028 and make Thailand the fifth Asian nation with a viable space program. While Thailand does have a space research agency – the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency – its most notable achievement has been sending a piece of baked durian into space two years ago aboard a private American launch vehicle.
Anek said taxpayers would have to give some more to achieve these lofty ambitions.
“The government fund should almost be sufficient, but if the project must be completed within seven years, we would need some help from the people too,” he said. “The project will forever give Thai people a new perspective that Thailand can do it and is no longer a developing country.”
While his soaring aspirations won some praise, others slammed him for having his head in the clouds.
“Please improve Bangkok’s buses and public transportation first,” Facebook user PS Hemtanont wrote. “Stop daydreaming. You are not even fixing the problems we have now but instead want to go to outer space?”
“You should fly over the country and think about Thai people’s problems earning a living, first,” a Natthanan Gantamool wrote. “Leave exploration of the moon, Mars or whichever planet to other countries. Let’s focus on reality.”