The race to become the next space ‘superpower’ lands China on the ‘dark side’ of the moon

The race to become the next space ‘superpower’ lands China on the ‘dark side’ of the moon
A model of the moon lander for China's Chang'e 4 lunar probe is displayed at the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, or Zhuhai Airshow, in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, China.Reuters

  • China, marking a historic moment for Earth, just became the first country to land a rover on the far side of the moon.
  • It’s a stepping stone for country in its ambitions to become to next space ‘superpower’ as its space exploration efforts catch up to the US and Russia.
  • Landing on the ‘dark side’ of the moon isn’t just about exploration, but also about the potential resources that may support life as Earth’s resources deplete.
The ‘dark side’ of the moon — as ominous yet thrilling as Pink Floyd’s record — finally has it’s first visitors from Earth. The Chinese state media announced that they’ve successfully landed their rover on the far side of the moon on Thursday morning.

Not only does is position China as a space superpower in the eyes of the the rest of the world, but it also marks a landmark achievement in Earth’s space exploration history.

China Central Television (CCTV) reported that China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) successfully landed the rover — Chang’e 4 — on the South Pole-Aitken Basin at 10:26am Beijing time.

The race for dominating outer space

The ongoing race to dominate space between the US, Russia, and the emerging space ‘superpowers’ — India and China — has gained even more importance in recent years as technology has developed at an increasing pace.

Experts even claim that Russian astronauts were ahead of the US at every turn of the space race, that is, until the moon landing.

China’s landing on the far side of the moon is about more than exploring the unexplored but about having first-mover advantage over the resources that may possibly come to light. The fear is that they may lay unilateral claim, as they already have over 90% of the South China Sea. They already stand accused of having stolen key space technology from the US.

Even though war in outer space isn’t a phenomenon yet, countries are already arming themselves with anti-satellite weapons (ASATs) and have shot down their satellites — which were no longer useful — as show of what their technology is capable of doing.

The innovation of ASATs is hardly surprising considering the dual-nature of space technology that can be used empower, but also destroy. Donald Trump’s plan for the ‘Space Force’ is based on the same premise. Mike Pence, the US vice president, as defended the Space Force stating that, “While other nations increasingly possess the capability to operate in space, not all of them share our commitment to freedom, to private property and the rule of law.”

China’s road to becoming a space ‘super power’

China’s first successful mission to the moon was the Luna 2 on September 12, 1959. Since then, China has launched their China Lunar Exploration Programme — also known as the Chang’e program — which encompasses multiple robotic moon missions by China’s nodal space agency, the CNSA.

The Chang’e program is divided into four parts, the last of which includes a manned mission to the moon. In 2013, China already made a name for itself by being the third country — after the US and Russia — to successfully ‘soft land’ its ‘Jade Rabbit’ rover on the moon. It’s same landing that India plans on achieving with the launch on Chandrayaan-2, which is scheduled to launch on 31 January 2019 after repeated delays.

See also:
China is about to launch the first robots to the far side of the moon. Their discoveries could be revolutionary.

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