PanamaTimes

Thursday, Feb 22, 2024

China and NASA are racing to the moon. Side-by-side photos hint NASA has the edge, but China's secrecy makes the race hard to call.

China and NASA are racing to the moon. Side-by-side photos hint NASA has the edge, but China's secrecy makes the race hard to call.

NASA and China each just launched landmark missions in their efforts to put astronauts back on the moon. The spaceflights are very different.

China and NASA are racing toward the moon, each vying for the first human moon landing since 1972. Two recent launches show that NASA may have the edge, but there is no clear winner yet.


A Long March-2F rocket carrying China's Shenzhou-15 mission stands at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu Province of China.
NASA just launched its new lunar rocket for the first time on November 15, carrying the Orion spaceship, designed to ferry astronauts on future moon missions. Now Orion is circling the moon, uncrewed, in a test flight to ensure it can safely take human passengers next time.

Orion, the moon, and Earth as the spaceship reaches its farthest point from our planet.


China, meanwhile, launched a new crew of taikonauts (Chinese astronauts) toward its new space station on Tuesday. The rocket roared through the Gobi Desert skies, past a quarter-full moon looming low on the horizon.

China built the Tiangong station over the last year and a half, and just completed it in October. This launch establishes the beginning of regular rotations of taikonauts staffing the orbiting laboratory.

The International Space Station, top, and an illustration of China's Tiangong space station, bottom.


While NASA is testing its moon hardware in lunar orbit, China is stuck firmly in Earth's orbit. Chinese officials say their space station is a crucial step toward the moon, and they're developing the hardware for a lunar landing. With the limited information China has shared about its lunar program, it's hard to assess how close it is behind NASA.


NASA's chief sees China as an 'aggressive competitor' for the moon
A mannequin is onboard NASA's Orion spaceship, left, while China's launch sends three taikonauts, right, to its space station.


On paper, NASA is aiming to land its astronauts on the moon's south pole by 2025, but many experts and the agency's Inspector General say that timeline is unrealistic.

China could land its own people on the moon by 2030, Chinese lunar program designer and engineer Ye Peijian told state broadcaster CCTV in November 2021, according to Andrew Jones, the leading English-language journalist covering Chinese space programs.

The secrecy of China's lunar program makes it difficult for outside analysts to assess that timeline, but NASA's chief has expressed a sense that the race is tight.

"We have every reason to believe that we have a competitor, a very aggressive competitor, in the Chinese going back to the moon with taikonauts," Bill Nelson, NASA's administrator, said in a press briefing in November 2021.

"It's the position of NASA and, I believe, the United States government that we want to be there first, back on the moon after over a half-century," he added.

Administrator Bill Nelson said NASA wants to get to the moon before China.


Nelson, other Congress members, and past NASA administrators have previously pointed to China's ambitions in space as cause for concern, and a reason to increase NASA funding.

"The Chinese space program is increasingly capable of landing Chinese taikonauts much earlier than originally expected, but whatever," Nelson said, adding, "We are going to be as aggressive as we can be in a safe and technically feasible way to beat our competitors with boots on the moon."


Base-building on the moon is groundwork for the bigger space race: Mars
NASA has identified these 13 regions as potential targets for its next human moon landing.


China and NASA have identified some of the same target landing sites on the lunar south pole, Jones reported.

Both have long-term plans to construct permanent stations on the lunar surface, and they're building coalitions to work with other nations there — but not with each other.

The south pole of the moon could become especially valuable real estate, since it seems to hold much of the moon's water. That will be a critical resource for space programs that plan to send astronauts from the moon to Mars — as NASA plans — since they can break the water down into hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel.

Mars is the tighter space race, according to Doug Loverro, NASA's former associate administrator.

"If the target is to land on the moon and back, clearly the US is going to beat China. There's no question about it," Loverro told CNN. "But if the target is landing the first humans on Mars, the answer is a lot less certain."

Newsletter

Related Articles

PanamaTimes
Apple warns against drying iPhones with rice
In a recent High Court hearing, the U.S. argued that Julian Assange endangered lives by releasing classified information.
Global Law Enforcement Dismantles Lockbit Ransomware Operation
Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has died at the Arctic prison colony
The President of Argentina Javier Mile does not fly private, he flies commercial, with the citizens he represents. And they LOVE him for it.
Bitcoin Reaches $50,000 for First Time in Over Two Years
Belo Horizonte: Brazil's Rising Carnival Hotspot for 2024
In El Salvador, the 'Trump of Latin America' stuns the world with a speech slamming woke policing after winning a landslide election
Tucker’s interview with Putin is over 50M views on X within the first 5 hours.
Finnish Airline, Finnair, is voluntarily weighing passengers to better estimate flight cargo weight
President Nayib Bukele has proudly announced El Salvador's remarkable achievement of becoming the safest nation in the Western Hemisphere.
Former Chilean President Sebastian Piñera Dies in Helicopter Crash
This farmer seems to understand science a bit more than the event organizer, Klaus Schwab.
Facebook turns 20: From Mark Zuckerberg's dormitory to a $1trn company
The Coolest Dictator in the World" on the Path to Victory in El Salvador
Macron, France and fake news
Indian-Origin Man 'King' Arrested For Smuggling $16 Million Drugs Into US
Can someone teach Americans that not every person with slanted eyes is Chinese?
Europe's Farmers Feeding the People, Protesting Against Politicians Who Do Nothing for Their Country and Serve Only Themselves at Taxpayers' Expense
Paris Restaurant That Inspired 'Ratatouille' Loses $1.6 Million Worth Of Wine
Brazilian Police Investigate Bolsonaro's Son for Alleged Illegal Spying
Police in Brazil Raid Residence of Bolsonaro Associate Over Allegations of Illegal Spying
Border Dispute Escalates as Texas Governor Vows Increased Razor Wire
OpenAI Enhances ChatGPT-4 Model, Potentially Addressing AI "Laziness" Issue
The NSA finally acknowledges spying on Americans by acquiring sensitive data
Report Reveals Toxic Telegram Group Generating X-Rated AI-Generated Fake Images of Taylor Swift
US Border Patrol States 'No Plans' to Remove Razor Wire Installed in Texas
Bitcoin Experiences Approximately 20% Decline in Value
Klaus Schwab recently appointed himself as the Earth's "trustee of the future."
DeSantis Drops Out, Endorses Trump.
Nikki Haley said former President Trump is "just not at the same level" of mental fitness as he was while president in 2016.
Residents of a southern Mexican town set the government palace on fire in response to the police killing of a young man
Samsung Launches AI-Driven Galaxy S24, Ushering in New Smartphone Era
Judge Questions SEC's Regulatory Overreach in Coinbase Lawsuit
The Ecuador prosecutor who was investigating the television studio attack, has been assassinated.
Is artificial intelligence the solution to cyber security threats?
Vivek Ramaswamy suspends his US election campaign and endorses Trump.
Viral Satire: A Staged Satirical Clip Mistaken as Real Footage from the 2024 World Economic Forum in Davos
The AI Revolution in the Workforce: CEOs at Davos Predict Major Job Cuts in 2024
Ecuador Reports 178 Hostages in Prison Gang Standoff
The Startling Cuban Espionage Case That Has Rattled the US Government
Two Armed Men in Ecuador, Dressed as Batman and The Joker Storm the Streets.
Armed Gang Raids Ecuadorian TV Station Following State of Emergency Declaration
Anti-Democratic Canada: Journalist Arrested for Questioning Canadian Finance Minister on Support of Terrorist Group
Ecuador's 'Most-Wanted' Criminal Vanishes from Prison
Mexican Cartel Supplied Wi-Fi to Locals Under Threat of Fatal Consequences for Non-Compliance
Border Surge Leads to Over 11,000 Migrants Waiting in Northern Mexico
Outsider Candidates Triumph in Latin American Elections
As Argentina Goes to the Polls, Will the Proposal to Replace the Peso with the Dollar Secure Votes?
Fatal Shark Attack Claims Life of Boston Woman Paddleboarding Near Bahamas Resort, According to Police
×