China will displace 9,000 villagers to build $184 million telescope for alien life search

Over 9,000 Chinese villagers must leave their homes to make way for aliens "or for the possible echoes of them," reports Ed Wong in the New York Times.

The telescope is known as FAST (Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope), and has been in the works since the mid-1990s. It's scheduled to be completed in September, 2016, and to cost around $184 million dollars.

FAST's dish is about as large as 30 football fields, and will be located deep in the mountains of Guizhou, China. It will be the world's largest telescope, overtaking Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory, a mere 300 meters in diameter.

Earlier this week. China's state news agency Xinhua revealed the planned displacement of some 2,029 families (totaling 9,110 people) within about three miles of the telescope, in the southwestern province of Guizhou.

Removing all the people from the area will create "a sound electromagnetic wave environment" for the telescope, reported Xinhua.

From the New York Times piece:

Officials plan to give each person the equivalent of $1,800 for housing compensation, the report said. Guizhou is one of China's poorest provinces. Forced relocations for large projects are common across China, and so are complaints about them and about the amount of compensation offered. The Three Gorges Dam displaced more than one million people along the Yangtze River, for example, and the middle route of the gargantuan South-North Water Diversion Project has resulted in the relocation of 350,000 people to make way for a series of canals.

The Chinese government has announced ambitious plans for its space program, at a time when the American one's direction is uncertain. China aims to put an astronaut on the moon and a space station in orbit. The FAST project is another important element in the larger plan.

Photos: Chinese Academy of Science