As China’s lunar ambitions explode, it admits it’s in a moon race with the US

“In the historical context of that period, the race to demonstrate superior political power made lunar exploration unsustainable,” the plan said.

“It is foreseeable that in the next 20 to 30 years, China’s International Lunar Research Station and US Artemis program will compete in terms of technology and operational efficiency on the same historical stage and in the same geographical location (the south pole of the moon),” he said.

The new plan, “Strategic Concept of the Development Path of Resource Utilization of the International Lunar Research Station,” was written under the leadership of Pei Zhaoyu, deputy director of CNSA’s Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center, and published in the Chinese Journal of Astronautics in April. .

“And countries like the United States don’t have a distinct advantage in that.”

Washington has long viewed China as a rival in this new rush to the moon, viewing the race primarily as a land grab.

“It is a fact: we are in one space race,” NASA chief Bill Nelson said in an interview about China’s moon ambitions with Politico in January 2023.
“And it is true that we must take care that they do not reach a place on the moon under the guise of ScieNtific research. And it’s not beyond the realm of possibility for them to say, ‘Stay out, we’re here, this is our territory,’” he said.

But China sees the game differently, according to Pei.

02:01

China’s Chang’e-6 touches down on far side of moon on mission to bring rock samples back to Earth

China’s Chang’e-6 touches down on far side of moon on mission to bring rock samples back to Earth

Beijing aims to replicate its success on Earth by carrying out large-scale infrastructure construction on the Moon. It will help create technological, manufacturing and economic advantages to encourage more countries to stop following the United States and join China-led efforts to exploit lunar resources, according to the plan.

“The use of lunar resources is a scientific challenge, a technological impetus and an economic reward. Efficiency and profitability will be the essential evaluation standards, guiding sustainable construction, operation and development,” Pei’s team wrote.

The lunar soil is extremely rich in titanium and iron, two metals that can be used to make spacecraft components. China has also detected numerous water molecules in its recently taken samples, a source that the Apollo missions missed.

These hydrogen and oxygen molecules, trapped in lunar soil particles, indicated the possible presence of up to 270 billion tons of water resources on the moon, which could be used to produce rocket fuel, water and oxygen for astronauts, Chinese space authorities said. in social networks. the media.

According to the latest plan, China will launch two large spacecraft in the coming years to carry out detailed exploration of these resources and to prove key technologies for using the resources. By 2030, cooperative work between humans and intelligent machines is expected to be achieved on the lunar surface.

Starting in 2035, China plans to “carry out large-scale energy procurement, large-scale material extraction and large-scale lunar base construction” to achieve “engineering applications such as oxygen and water manufacturing from lunar soil, collecting and extracting mineral resources, manufacturing metal-based components and constructing lunar-based buildings”.

A “lunar-based resource exploration system covering a wide area of ​​thousands of kilometers and a depth of hundreds of meters” will also be completed in this period.

China’s lunar probe Chang’e-6, which made headlines around the world, was the first human craft to ever land on the far side of the moon when it crashed earlier this month. Photo: Reuters

By 2045, China’s lunar base will have large facilities such as power plants, factories, scientific research institutions, rocket launch sites, tourist centers and a small underground city.

Chinese resource exploration robots will roam the entire lunar surface. It is estimated that more than half of the investment in the construction and operation of these facilities will come from countries other than China, and economic activities will reach a tipping point. Humans will use this base as a starting point to explore Mars.

“China will become a leader in human deep space exploration activities,” the plan said.

China’s first lunar probe, Chang’e-1, was launched in 2007. Due to lack of experience and confidence, this small two-ton satellite orbited the Earth for more than two weeks before heading to the Moon.

Shortly after the launch, then commander-in-chief of the lunar exploration project, Luan Enjie, told Xinhua News Agency: “China will not engage in any form of lunar competition with any country.”

However, it took less than 15 years for the balance of space power to shift. China has sent a rover to Mars, created the BeiDou navigation satellite system to compete with GPS and set up the world’s largest Earth observation satellite network capable of tracking F-22 stealth fighters.
It has also completed construction of an independent space station – something the United States has never achieved – and developed the world’s only high orbit communications satellite that can directly connect millions of smartphones to Earth at a distance of 36,000 km.
China’s lunar exploration program has also reached major milestones in the world. Last month, Chang’e-6 graceful spaceship touched down on the far side of the moon, where no other country has gone and collected stones and earth. These samples will soon be returned to Earth.

02:14

China’s Chang’e 6 launches historic mission to collect first rock samples from far side of moon

China’s Chang’e 6 launches historic mission to collect first rock samples from far side of moon

Although the United States began lunar exploration earlier, due to mission delays and funding constraints, “it has lost its absolute leadership position,” Pei’s team wrote.

To counter China’s advances, the US government has entrusted critical lunar missions to private companies, believing they can build a lunar base more efficiently than NASA. To motivate these private players, the US Congress passed a law that affirms the principle: “First to explore, first to own”.

However, the initial two private US missions to the moon have stalled. Astrobotic Technology’s Peregrine lunar lander, the first US spacecraft to attempt a lunar landing in decades, burned in a failed attempt. Intuitive Machines’ Land of Odysseus also encountered technical difficulties and upside down after landing at a faster than expected speed.
of US Artemis program includes a space station called Gateway that orbits the moon. However, the feasibility of this plan has been met with skepticism in China’s space community, as the United States has never successfully built a full space station, even in Earth orbit.

The US space laboratory Skylab operated for less than a year before it crashed, and the main technology of the International Space Station is provided by Russia.

SpaceX Starship has achieved significant success in test flights. Although this giant spacecraft still requires further testing and technological advances to fly to the moon, some Chinese aerospace engineers believe it is the United States’ best hope in the race.

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Image Source : www.scmp.com

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