[Editorial Analysis] The space race: on China moon mission

Mains Paper 3: Science and Technology

Prelims level: China’s moon mission

Mains level: Key significance and impacts of the China’s moon mission

Context

• China’s achievement in landing a spacecraft on the far side of the moon could
trigger a rivalry with the U.S. in outer space.

• China’s January 3 landing on the mysterious “dark” side of the moon, the first by any country, gives Beijing a leg up on Washington over big ticket space exploration.

• The Chang’e-4 mission got around the problem of lack of communication with those on earth by using a relay satellite.

• The data that China obtains on the moon’s craters could help it acquire an edge over other countries, including the U.S., in the highly competitive domain of space research.

• The Chinese could also steal a march over the Americans by launching advanced rockets, which would explore new frontiers in space. Unlike earth, the moon has an abundance of helium-3.

• In the far future, this can serve as the ideal fuel to power a new generation of spaceships, with the moon as the launchpad, instead of earth.

Dark side of the moon on China’s moon mission

• The Chinese may have also taken the lead over peers in exploring the possibilities of human habitation on the moon.

• The Yutu-2, the rover of the ongoing Chang’e-4 mission, is programmed to explore the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

• This vast impact region, 13 km deep and 2,500 km wide, has copious reserves of ice.

• The promise of water has persuaded international space scientists to peg the site as suitable for a permanent lunar outpost, which is on China’s radar.

• The promise of the moon’s natural resources can add another layer of rivalry between the Chinese and the Americans.

• Space exploration buffs have considered asteroids as lucrative sources of precious metals such as gold, platinum, silver and iridium in the future.

• It is relatively the more accessible surface of the moon could yield precious resources, the race for lunar colonisation would begin, providing China a substantial early-mover edge.

Way forward

• NASA has congratulated its Chinese counterpart on the impressive success of the Chang’e-4 mission.

• But its graceful applause is unlikely to yield step two: an offer of active space collaboration between the two countries.

• The popular mood within Washington’s political class has been soured by the sentiment to contain China’s rise.

• In China, an intense techno-war, furthered by the U.S.-inspired arrest in Canada of the scion of the telecom giant, Huawei, has bruised the country’s nationalistic psyche.

• A new generation of Chinese and American peace advocates, global citizens and cyber-activists have their task cut out to step up their game and prevent outer space from becoming another arena of a budding Cold War between Washington and Beijing.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) Consider the following statements about International joint collaboration payloads on Chang’e 4 it includes

1. Germany’s Lunar Lander Neutrons and Dosimetry (LND), installed on the lander;

2. Sweden’s Advanced Small Analyzer for Neutrals (ASAN), installed on the rover;

3. Netherlands-China Low-Frequency Explorer (NCLE), installed on a relay satellite called Queqiao, which launched in May 2018.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 1 and 3 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Correct Answer: D

Mains Questions:

Q.1) Critically examine the China’s recent achievement could trigger yet another rivalry with the U.S. in outer space.

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