The Sun rises on Chinese space science
The world is changing, and fast. Take the new report from the Royal Society. It's called Knowledge, Networks and Nations: Global Scientific Collaboration in the 21st Century.
It examines how the emerging economies, led by China and followed by others such as Brazil and India, are challenging the "old order".
The pre-eminent scientific positions of the US, Western Europe and Japan are now being eroded on every front - in the number of scientific papers published, in citations made, and in patent applications. In terms of pure investment, the emerging economies are also pumping increasing funds into their labs and their science-based industries.
This blog is concerned with space, of course, and all of the above applies very much to this particular field of endeavour. But, as I say, where there is a challenge so there is an opportunity.
John Zarnecki (third from right) inspects a prototype Chinese Moon rover in 2007
That's the view certainly of Professor John Zarnecki from the UK's Open University.
John has had an amazing career at the pinnacle of British space science.
He's worked on a diverse group of missions, including Europe's Giotto probe which flew by Comet Halley in 1986, and on the development of Hubble.
He also led the surface science instrument team on Huygens, the European spacecraft that landed on Saturn's moon Titan in 2005. But he's felt the wind of change, also, and is heading to China for several months a year to start working on the Asian giant's space programme.
He's being given a lab, people and money to work on space instrumentation. There's a good chance the products of this work will end up on China's Chang'e programme, which is exploring the Moon.
So far, the Chinese have put two spacecraft in orbit around the lunar body. The future missions Chang'e 3, 4 and 5 will very likely land, rove and finally return rock samples to Earth.
This is not one of those classic "brain drain" stories; rather it's about chasing possibilities. John will still anchor himself in the UK and at the OU. He believes British and Chinese space interests can build a strong new partnership:
"Some people have put their heads in the sand about this, but China is coming. This is the last big project in my career, but what an opportunity to work with the Chinese on developing an instrument or package and sending it to the Moon or Mars!
"They've offered me a visiting professorship at Beihang University, which is a new name for the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics. They're strong on technology and very well connected with the Chinese space agency. We've had contacts with them for several years, but I've come to the conclusion that to make real progress then even more personal contact is needed; and so when this professorship came up, it was too good an opportunity to miss.
Huygens made the most distant landing in the Solar System. John Zarnecki's instrument package probed Titan's surface
"The OU is encouraging me because, like a lot of UK universities, they recognise that China is the coming force and it's important to engage at all levels, from teaching to research. And whereas in the UK we are under tremendous pressure over resources, in China they're offering me a lab and giving me people.
"This year, I will be out there for about three months and then we'll see how it goes. I'm not signed up to a particular space mission, but I hope by being there I will be able to get on some great missions like Chang'e 3, 4 and 5. Here, we're talking about a lunar lander, a lunar rover and lunar sample return over the next three missions.
"And the really exciting thing is that when I started going there a few years ago, Mars was just a dream; it would feature in one slide at the end of a presentation from some of their senior people. Now, we get whole presentations on very detailed technical studies. I think the Chang'e 1 and 2 missions - the success of them, technically - have given the Chinese huge confidence that they really can do stuff.
"Now, China is very good on the technical side of things, but what they don't have is the 40 years' experience in space science that we have in the UK and Europe. That's what we can bring to them. And, you know, I see this as a win-win: I see this as the OU opening a lab in China, and I want to see Chinese students coming to Britain and British students going to China.
"Many of these kids will be the scientific leaders of tomorrow and if I can help bring them through, that will be fantastic."
The UK has done fantastically well in recent years with its space science partnerships with the US. Consider the recent Nasa missions launched to study the Sun - the Stereo spacecraft and the Solar Dynamics Observatory.
Britain provided a modest amount of scientific instrumentation and components, and in return got prime access to some cutting-edge data on our star.
It's the sort of access British researchers could never have got any other way because the UK simply does not have the budget to launch these kinds of missions on its own.
It looks increasingly likely that these opportunities will also now present themselves in China and India. Who'll grab opportunities?
The Royal Society report investigates the emergence of China and others as big scientific players