Weeks after Russia’s former head of the Roscomsmos space agency cast doubt on the US moon landing in 1969, China announced plans to put a person on the moon by 2030.
In a Monday announcement, Lin Xiqiang, the deputy director of China’s Manned Space Agency, said that the CCP’s moon landing project – part of the country’s broader Lunar Exploration Project (Chang’e Project, named after the Chinese moon goddess) – had only “recently” been kick started. The project seeks to eventually enable short-term stays on the lunar surface, as along with the collection of samples and other research, The NY Times reports.
Chinese scientists have previously nodded at a 2030 goal in a less formal capacity; for example, the chief designer of China’s lunar exploration program said last month that a 2030 landing would be “no problem.”
The Monday announcement came at a news conference to mark the liftoff of three new astronauts on Tuesday to China’s new space station, which was completed late last year.
A manned lunar landing would be a major milestone for China’s, and the world’s, space exploration: No human has been on the moon since the United States’ Apollo missions in the 1960s and ’70s. And it could mark a significant achievement for China in its burgeoning competition with the United States in space. China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, has said that the country should become a “great space power.”
The announcement follows one by NASA, which announced a plan to put a team on the moon by 2025 as part of the (repeatedly delayed) Artemis program.
Both Beijing and Washington want to build research stations on the moon, and to land people on Mars.
The Times frames the announcement as a point of contention between the US and China, echoing the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
NASA’s administrator, Bill Nelson, has said that the United States should “watch out” for Chinese attempts to dominate the lunar surface and keep Americans out. A Pentagon report last year warned that China could overtake American capabilities in space by 2045. -NY Times
China has accelerated its space program in recent years, and is currently the only country (known) to have landed anything on the moon in the 21st century. The CCP also landed a lunar probe on the moon’s far side for the first time in history in 2019.
If the moon is next for humans, it might be a good time to bone up on your Heinlein.
Careful, China. You never know what’s up there!
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