Sun. Oct 2nd, 2022
Workers at the return pod landing site of China's Chang'e 5 probe in Siziwang Banner, northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, on December 17, 2020.
enlarge Workers at the return pod landing site of China’s Chang’e 5 probe in Siziwang Banner, northern China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, on December 17, 2020.

Xinhua/Ren Junchuan via Getty Images

China’s increasingly ambitious space program completed a 23-day mission on Wednesday that culminated in the return of about 2 kg of rocks from the moon. During the final phase of the mission, a scorched spacecraft carrying the moon payload landed in Mongolia and was recovered by Chinese teams.

This Chang’e 5 mission represents significant success for China and its space program, becoming only the third nation — after the United States with its manned Apollo program and the Soviet Union with its robotic program in the 1970s — to collect samples of to send the moon back .

At a press conference after the landing, Chinese officials said they would follow suit with the United States and the Soviet Union in sharing the samples with international partners, including the United Nations. Sharing material with the United States, however, seems unlikely because of the Wolf Amendment, a law passed by Congress in 2011 that prohibits direct cooperation with China.

“The Chinese government stands ready to share samples, including data, with all like-minded institutions from other countries,” said Wu Yanhua, vice administrator of the China National Space Administration. He then called the Wolf amendment passed by Congress “unfortunate” and indicated that direct cooperation with NASA was unlikely to take place.

Some US space officials, including former NASA administrator Charles Bolden, have called for the Wolf amendment to be withdrawn, saying the space agency should be allowed to work with China on current and future issues. However, the US Congress has continued to block this over concerns about the possible theft of US technology that could result from such partnerships. It is not clear whether the Biden administration will revise these rules.

Now that this mission is complete, China plans to further expand its lunar program. Then, in a few years’ time, the Chang’e 6 mission will attempt to return 2 kg of rocks from the moon’s south pole and investigate the prevalence of water ice in the region. Future missions will include landers, bases and more opportunities for scientific research.

During the press conference, Wu said the country would eventually send people — called taikonauts in China — to the moon, but has not set a date for the mission. The country has yet to develop several technologies to make this possible. He said, however, that when China goes to the moon, it will be to conduct research and benefit humanity, not as part of a “space race” as the United States and Soviet Union undertook in the 1960s.

NASA is also interested in returning humans to the moon in the 2020s. However, whether China’s growing interest in Earth’s companion prompts Congress or the Biden administration to more fully fund the ambitions of NASA’s Artemis program will not be clear until the next few budget cycles are completed.

By akfire1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.