Since the Soviet Luna program, China has been the only country to land on the moon for over 40 years. A recent Chang’e mission (1-4) has shown that China can not only orbit the moon and land, but also operate the rover well. On November 24, the National Space Agency of China launched the latest in the series, Chang’e 5.
This mission of collecting and returning samples is impressive. The Israeli privately funded mission and the recent failure of the Lunar Module by the Indian Vikram lander show how difficult such a mission is yet.
read more: Moon and Beyond 3: What Does the New Space Race and Its Victory Look Like?
So is this only if China uses space exploration to show the world that its new scientific and technological capabilities are comparable to those of the West? If so, what is the result?
Chang’e 5 (named after the Chinese Moon Goddess) collects samples from Mons Rümker, a 70 km wide, 500 meter high basalt dome in the Oceanus Procellarum near the Moon. The purpose is to do.
After that, we plan to bring 2 kg of excavated and scooped samples back to Earth. If the mission is successful, planetary scientists will be able to test some important theories about the origin of the Moon and the rocky planets inside the solar system dating back to the Apollo era.
The age of the rock body can be estimated from the density of craters. The longer the body is, the more debris will hit its surface. However, it is not a very accurate measurement. Dating estimates for Mt. Rümker and the surrounding area were derived from the number of impact craters above it and ranged from more than 3 billion years to 1 billion years.
The absolute age of the returned sample is determined by radiometric dating. This is a method of dating geological specimens by calculating the relative proportions of specific radioisotopes (elements with more or less particles in the nucleus than standard materials). This will help you better understand how crater density corresponds to age. It can then be used to improve the crater density age model on the surfaces of Moon and Mars, Mercury and Venus.
New space race
Few people disagree with the fact that China’s space program, including satellites, human missions, and the space station planned for 2022, is rapidly rising and successful. But it’s competitive. The US-led Artemis program has set a goal of returning humans to the moon by 2024. This is especially before the Chinese Tyco Note landed.
The European Space Agency also has its own plans for the Moon, including the European Large Logistics Lander EL3, which aims to provide a 1.3 ton lander for new scientific experiments in the late 2020s. But China’s lunar plan is more ambitious than its European plan. A new cohort of 18 Chinese trainees, Tyco Notes, has recently begun training for the long-term purpose of boarding a new space station, walking on the moon, and finally reaching Mars.
Rocket fuel for this rapid growth is research spending in China. The country is approaching its goal of spending 2.5% of its growing GDP on research and development. This closes the gap with the United States, which spent 2.8% of GDP in 2018. The UK currently spends about 1.7% of its GDP on research and development.
China’s capabilities will undoubtedly continue to grow. As a Western scientist, I wonder how this will shape the research of future generations. Will Chinese universities begin to lead space research and influence the rankings currently dominated by Western universities? Is this rapid development good given that China’s nation is not democratic?
There are optimistic reasons, at least the potential cooperation between Europe and China. The fact that many geochemical models of lunar and planetary formation have roots in the 380 kg sample brought back by the Apollo program is global among scientists about sampling new regions of the moon. It means that there is a lot of excitement. Western planetary scientists are, in fact, keenly interested in Chang’e 5 and China’s lunar program.
One of my first memories of space science was seeing the link to the successful US Soskylab Space Station in 1973-74. It was in balance with Cold War politics at the time, even though there was no democracy in the Soviet Union.
As a university scientist, I believe that having many Chinese students on our campus over the last decade will help facilitate future collaboration and change. COVID-19 is blocking it now, and we hope that Chang’e 5 will be a successful and future collaboration path that may help ease tensions.
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Is China Winning the New Space Race?
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