China Plans Moon Probe Landing in 2013

China is planning an unmanned moon landing in the second half on next year, according to a brief announcement in state media. From Reuters:

In 2007, China launched its first moon orbiter, the Chang’e One orbiter, named after a lunar goddess, which took images of the surface and analyzed the distribution of elements.

That launch marked the first step in China’s three-stage moon mission, to be followed by an unmanned moon mission and then the retrieval of lunar soil and stone samples around 2017.

The official China News Service said that the Chang’e Three would carry out surveys on the surface of the moon when it is launched in 2013.

At The Atlantic, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Frank Klotz argues that, although far behind the US and Russia, “China has in many respects already reached the top tier of spacefaring nations“. He emphasises the military aspects of China’s often opaque space program, and suggests that America’s current ban on collaboration is misguided.

[… I]n May of last year, the House inserted a provision into the NASA appropriations bill that prohibited it and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy from spending any funds “to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company.” It also blocked the hosting of official Chinese visitors at facilities belonging to or used by NASA.

This legislative action reportedly reflected deeply held concerns about protecting American intellectual property and sensitive technologies in the face of aggressive Chinese attempts to glean scientific and technical information from abroad. However, in the process, it foreclosed one possible avenue for gaining greater insight into China’s intentions with respect to space.

[…] As the United States pursues its stated policy of devoting greater attention to the Asia-Pacific region and encouraging an increasingly powerful China to support constructive approaches to resolving political and economic differences, it’s certainly worth carefully considering whether aspects of the U.S.-Russian experience with space cooperation can be pursued with China in order to serve long-term American interests.

For more on the cooperation ban and tongue-in-cheek speculation about a Chinese moon-grab, see ‘Will China Blast Past America In Space?‘ on CDT.


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