China is all set to make the biggest radio telescope on Earth — and it will displace thousands of people to do it, too.
China announced Tuesday it would relocate 9,110 villagers from its Guizhou province to make room for the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Special Telescope (FAST) in hopes of discovering alien life. The country claims the telescope will be able to detect extremely far off planets, even extraterrestrial life, and expects the 1.2 billion yuan ($184 million) project to be finished by September this year.
Nicknamed the “Sky Eye,” the telescope will dwarf the 1,000-foot diameter Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. In recent days, scientists behind the project have been installing “retina” panels 3 feet long. Special cables will allow the panels to be precisely adjusted during the operation to within 10 millimeters.
“A radio telescope is like a sensitive ear, listening to tell meaningful radio messages from white noise in the universe," Nan Rendong, a senior scientist on the project, said. "It is like identifying the sound of cicadas in a thunderstorm.”
Each of the “evacuated” residents will be paid a paltry compensation of 12,000 yuan ($1,800) and some ethnic minorities will get an additional 10,000 yuan ($1,500) for their troubles. The pittance is less than half the average annual salary in China.
Although one of the most ambitious space projects in history, is it really worth the human cost?
In 2010, some 1.5 million people were forced to leave their homes during the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest dam that cost more than $40 billion to build. Almost the same number of people were evicted and their homes demolished in 2008, when the government embarked on a large-scale city development to accommodate the Olympic Games.
In fact, approximately 40 million Chinese have been periodically displaced since the 1970s to make way for economic development projects.
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