2007 was the 50th anniversary of Sputnik II, which launched the dog Laika into orbit and began the discipline of space biology. Compared with other young sub-disciplines within biology, space biology has been largely a failure. From day one Cold War politics led to dishonest or insufficient reporting of scientific results. International competition seems essential for getting organisms into orbit but political competition can lead to poor science. The People's Republic of China, as a new player in space exploration, provides hope for progress in space biology. It remains to be seen, however, whether it will invite significant international collaboration in space biology and establish higher standards than have characterized space biology research in the past 50 years. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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