China"s Yutu 2 rover rolls ~ above the moon’s far side shortly after its Jan. 2, 2019, touchdown.(Image credit: CNSA)
China"s historical robotic mission come the moon"s far side could just be a preview that some unmatched human exploration of Earth"s nearest ar a few years down the road.

You are watching: Did china go to the moon

Chinese officials have voiced a desire to send astronauts come the moon. And also the nation"s leadership places a premium on act things that have never been done prior to —such together landing ~ above the mysterious lunar far side, i beg your pardon theChang"e 4 mission pulled off Wednesday(Jan. 2), and also building theworld"s largest radio telescope. Chang"e 4 deployed a rover called Yutu 2 ~ above the moon"s much side, too.

It"s thus likely that China has actually serious crewed lunar ambitions that don"t involve just retracing the actions of NASA"s Apollo astronauts, specialists say.

"I think what us will check out will be either much more people, a an ext extended stay, or maybe landing at a pole — other that"ll make civilization say, "Wow! That"s not just replicating what other civilization have done,"" Dean Cheng, a senior research other at The Heritage foundation who"s an experienced on China"s program, told

"I can imagine a manned landing on the far side that the moon, despite that"s really risky," Cheng said.

Another very real possibility, that added: sending out a mrs to the lunar surface. All 12 that theApollo astronautswho walked on the moon in between 1969 and 1972 were men. And none the them continued to be on the lunar surface ar for more than 75 hours.

Prowess and persistence

The very first Chinese satellite didn"t with orbit until 1970, 13 year after the Soviet Union kicked turn off the age through the start ofSputnik 1. However China has actually steadily improved its off-Earth expertise over the decades and is now a significant power.

For example, in 2003, China came to be just the third country to start astronauts right into orbit, after the Soviet Union and also the united States. Due to the fact that then, China has launched — and sent civilization to — two separate Tiangong " labs," to help lay the groundwork because that a full-on orbital station that China aims to have actually up and also running by 2022 or so.

And then there"s the uncrewed side of things.

Since 2007, the Chang"e regime has yielded two robotic elafilador.netcraft to lunar orbit (Chang"e 1 and 2), dropped two rover-lander duos top top the moon"s surface ar (Chang"e 3 and also 4), inserted a relay satellite in a steady Lagrange allude beyond the moon (calledQueqiao) and also sent a prototype capsuleon an eight-day, roundtrip mission about the moon (Chang"e 5 T1). The capsule is the forerunner of a container the will home lunar material on the Chang"e 5 sample-return mission, which might launch as early as this year. (There hasn"t to be a effective lunar sample-return effort because 1976, once the Soviet Union"s Luna 24 mission carried some moon dirt under to Earth.)

To provide a little an ext perspective ~ above China"s rise: In 2018, the nation conducted39 orbital launches, an ext than any other country. The United states was second, through 31.

So there"s tiny reason come doubt China"s capacity to pull turn off a crewed moon mission. Indeed, China can well do it before NASA (which has actually said it aims to return astronauts to the lunar surface ar by the so late 2020s), according to Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor of nationwide security affairs in ~ the Naval war College in Newport, R.I.

American an are technology and also innovation room superior, Johnson-Freese told, however China has actually one vital advantage: politics will.

Political will certainly is tough to keep in the unified States, which attributes frequent handovers of power. As a result, NASA’s significant goals have readjusted often end the decades. Because that example, president George W. Shrub directed the firm to job-related to gain astronauts ago to the moon through 2020, spawning a program recognized as Constellation. But in 2010, president Barack Obama cancelled Constellation, shifting the human-elafilador.netflight emphasis to a near-Earth asteroid. And President Donald trump card recentlymade the moon the target when again. (The relatively near-term target, that is; the long-term destination for NASA"s human-elafilador.netflight program has remained Mars throughout.)

Such volatility does not plague the program that authoritarian China, which has actually been ruled by the Communist Party due to the fact that 1949.

"We are capable, yet the Chinese room persistent, and it"s going to pay off for them," Johnson-Freese said.

Not official, and not a race

Chinese room officials have discussed building a crewed "lunar palace," perhaps close to the moon"s south pole, and eventually sending astronauts all the way to Mars. The country has already performed aone-year mock moon mission called Lunar palace 1 as component of that work. However, such purposes remain unofficial in ~ the moment.

"The Chinese still work according come five-year plans," Cheng said. "And we"ve watched no indication the the next five-year arrangement — 2021 come 2025 — has a manned mission involved."

Chinese boots because of this probably won"t struggle the gray lunar dirt until the 2026 to 2030 timeframe in ~ the earliest, said Cheng, who included that he see 2031 to 2035 as more realistic.

And China is in no an excellent rush. The nation isn"t racing to beat the United claims or everyone else, Cheng stressed, yet rather is carried out a irreversible program of sustainable development.

Chinese officials "have claimed they are structure a program constructed on infrastructure, rather than "been there, excellent that, let"s go home,"" Johnson-Freese said.

And in situation you were wondering: significant collaboration between the joined States and China top top a crewed lunar mission, or any type of other significant endeavor, is i can not qualify without new legislation. Because 2011, NASA and also the White home Office of scientific research and technology Policy have actually been barred native cooperating with their Chinese counterparts ~ above activities, unless breakthrough congressional approval has actually been secured. This prohibition is recognized as theWolf Amendmentafter its champion, former Rep. Frank wolf (R-Virginia).

See more: Chinese Aggression In South China Sea, Territorial Disputes In The South China Sea

Mike Wall"s book about the search for alien life, "Out There" (Grand central Publishing, 2018; portrayed byKarl Tate) is the end now. Follow him on Twitter

Join our an are Forums to keep talking room on the recent missions, night sky and also more! and if you have actually a news tip, mediate or comment, allow us understand at: community

* an elderly WRITER — Michael has actually been writing for since 2010. His book around the find for extraterrestrial life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before coming to be a scientific research writer, Michael functioned as a herpetologist and also wildlife biologist. He has actually a Ph.D. In evolution biology native the college of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor"s degree from the university of Arizona, and also a graduate certificate in scientific research writing from the college of California, Santa Cruz. To uncover out what his latest job is, you deserve to follow Michael onTwitter.