What the Hell Is China Doing on the Dark Side of the Moon?


One year ago last month, a Chinese robot touched down on the dark side of the moon. 

It was the first probe to land on the side of the moon that permanently faces away from Earth as both bodies circle around the sun. And if Beijing realizes its ambitions in coming years, it won’t be the last time it makes history—and threatens U.S. dominance in space.

The Chang’e 4 probe and the Yutu 2 rover it carried have stayed busy photographing and scanning minerals, cultivating cotton, potato and rapeseeds, growing yeast, and hatching fruit-fly eggs in the moon’s low gravity.

The experiments are intriguing in their own right, but China’s real agenda is more than scientific. For decades, Beijing has been building the infrastructure for an eventual manned mission to the moon, effectively duplicating what the United States achieved in 1969 and hopes to achieve again before 2024.

The reasons for this latter-day space race are clear, experts said, even if the real-world pay-off isn’t. 







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“Space has always been symbolic of leadership, through prestige, that translates into strategic influence,” Joan Johnson-Freese, a space expert at the Naval War College in Rhode Island, told The Daily Beast. “China seeks to be acknowledged as the technology leader in Asia, and there is no more visible place to do that than space.”

While the current, high-profile U.S. moon mission is mired in Trump-era politics, China’s keeps plodding forward with fewer bold pronouncements and more actual accomplishments. 

As Chang’e 4 and Yutu 2 work away, the China National Space Administration is quietly planning a follow-up probe. Chang’e 5 could blast off this year. Unlike the one-way Chang’e 4, which is limited to bouncing back data via a relay satellite, its successor is designed to collect samples and bring them back to Earth.

Meanwhile, the Chinese space agency has resumed work on its Tiangong 3 space stationand is also testing a new manned capsule for deep-space missions. 






When the 22-year-old, U.S.-led International Space Station finally craps out some time in the late 2020s or early 2030s, Tiangong could become the only permanent habitat in low Earth orbit. If the United States wants to maintain a significant human presence over Earth after the ISS, it might have no choice but to ask China for permission to embark. 

That would make Tiangong the “de facto international space station,” Johnson-Freese argued. Neither NASA nor the Chinese space agency responded to requests for comment.

“China is in a no-lose situation,” Johnson-Freese added via email. “It can ‘beat’ the U.S. (back) to the Moon—or not—but soon thereafter be able to say anything the U.S. can do, we can do, too.”

To be clear, the United States isn’t standing still in space. NASA still leads the International Space Station and in recent years convinced Congress to keep the station in service as long as its basic components were safe and economical. 





The U.S. space agency is also deploying a new space telescope and sending probes across the solar system as part of an ever-expanding search for extraterrestrial life. 

And then there’s the moon. NASA for years has mulled returning human explorers to the lunar surface for the first time since 1972. Not only is there plenty of science to be done, but the moon could also function as a staging base for astronauts heading to Mars. To say nothing of the commercial value of the moon’s minerals.

Last year, the Trump administration slapped an arbitrary 2024 deadline on a new manned lunar landing. That year, of course, represents the close of a possible second term for Trump. Experts actually tend to agree 2024 is possible, but only if Congress coughs up $30 billion—and if there are zero problems developing all the hardware a moon landing requires. Tools like a new heavy rocket, a manned capsule, and a lander. 




Trump’s Moon shot has already shown signs of falling apart. Developing the manned lander was always the riskiest part, according to John Logsdon, a professor emeritus of political science and international affairs at George Washington University and a former NASA adviser. NASA hasn’t built one in nearly half a century. 

Wary of throwing good money after bad, Congress approved only half of the billion dollars NASA wanted for the mission in 2020. “Our appetite doesn’t match our allocations,” Logsdon told The Daily Beast.

China’s more deliberate journey into space could be an attractive model for other, smaller space-faring countries. For decades, the United States has been the world leader in space, organizing other nations—including rivals like Russia—to explore the galaxy for the benefit of all humankind. 




“As U.S. leadership continues to erode under President Trump, other nations, especially Japan and the E.U., may begin to consider acting more independently and join China in more substantial cooperative space projects,” Gregory Kulacki, a space expert with the Massachusetts-based Union of Concerned Scientists, told The Daily Beast.

It could be decades before the end-game is clear, Christopher Impey, a University of Arizona astronomer, told The Daily Beast. “If you take the long view, which the Chinese always do, in 50 to 100 years we will be living in the solar system and there will be a substantial economic activity off-Earth,” he said.

“They want to be first,” Impey added of the Chinese, “and they want to be in the driver’s seat for that future.”

“在特朗普总统的领导下,美国的领导地位继续削弱,其他国家,尤其是日本和欧盟马萨诸塞州忧国忧国科学家联盟的空间专家Gregory Kulacki告诉《每日野兽》。

亚利桑那大学的天文学家Christopher Impey告诉《每日野兽》,游戏结束可能需要几十年的时间。他说:“如果从长远来看,这就是中国人一贯的做法,50到100年后,我们将生活在太阳系中,地球外将有大量的经济活动。”



译文来源:三泰虎     http://www.santaihu.com/49278.html      译者:Joyceliu 



In the grand scheme of things the moon is just a destination. It may unlock some mysteries as to how the earth and solar system developed but at the end of the day it is just an exercise to practice space travel. So it is good China wants to make the challenge. Only if all nations could all work together in collaboration would we see accelerated scientific achievements.



Prospector16 hours ago

Title: "What the Hell Is China Doing on the Dark Side of the Moon?"

Third paragraph: "The Chang’e 4 probe and the Yutu 2 rover it carried have stayed busy photographing and scanning minerals, cultivating cotton, potato and rapeseeds, growing yeast, and hatching fruit-fly eggs in the moon’s low gravity."




Logician16 hours ago

Setting up fast food outlets for astronauts on their way to Mars?



josh17 hours ago

if we were able to go to the moon wayyy back then on that really primitive tech.. it should be alot easier to get there now, seems like its taking a while....



John18 hours ago

The side of the moon that we never see. No telling who has set up shop over there.



Tim18 hours ago

Sweet. Chinese can move to the moon and find some more unusual things to eat.



Bosco117 hours ago

How do signals from the "back" side of the moon get to earth? Remember when Apollo 13 was using the gravity of the moon to sling shot back to Earth? Wasn't is about 12 minutes when they were out of contact with Earth on the back side of the Moon?



michael16 hours ago

We must FIRST start to see other people from other countries as humans and brothers and sisters and not “Chinese” or “American” because until that happens our real potential won’t be reached! Only through teamwork and hard work will we conquer space.



curt17 hours ago

You think by now we would have some sort of base on the moon.



John18 hours ago

Maybe Pink Floyd knows?



joec106617 hours ago

Screw the moon, let's send manned missions to the sun



Shelman18 hours ago

Are they building a Dollar Genral Store?



Sue14 hours ago

PLEASE stop putting out misinformation about astronomy! 

There is no such thing as a "dark side of the moon"! 

It's NEAR side, and FAR side!





2bones17 hours ago

Billions of tons of trash go into our oceans every year and everyone is worried about the moon? Let's focus on cleaning up our own planet first before we go and destroy another.



Clyde Kevorkian17 hours ago

Diversity, our greatest strength, will make it impossible for the US to put a man on the moon by 2024 ...



SPECTRE17 hours ago

It's "the FAR side of the Moon," not "the dark side."



SD Native12 hours ago

The US military has its own spacecraft, launch, and orbital capacity that seems to be doing quite well. NASA is the scientific branch of the US space effort: "For decades, the United States has been the world leader in space, organizing other nations—including rivals like Russia—to explore the galaxy for the benefit of all humankind. "

PS-Can any "journalist" write an article that isn't filled with anti-Trump rhetoric?




My Two Cents16 hours ago

Pink Floyd "Dark Side of the Moon." Back in the day this is what was considered Grammy material, not today's tripe.



charles18 hours ago

The Moon doesn't have a "dark side". The Moon has day and night, in roughly a 28 Earth day period.

The Chinese probe is on the "far side". Being tidally locked, one side of the Moon constantly faces the Earth.




Mike12 hours ago

So, thanks to China, our space program will get funding and continue to operate.



paul16 hours ago

Better send Space Force to check it out!



Donald18 hours ago

Can´t journalists get it through their heads that there is no "dark" side of the Moon. The far side that we never see has just as much sunlight as the near side.



Fido16 hours ago

Read the 2nd paragraph. "China threatens U.S. dominance in space"?

So, China shouldn't explore space? They're not allowed? So China should measure what US is doing and stay 2 steps back?






Osirus17 hours ago

FAR side of the moon, you fool. Both sides see light and dark.



I'm Flummoxed17 hours ago

China is obviously building their own Moonbase Alpha.


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