Why did China go to the moon?
On Saturday, December 14th the Chinese vessel Chang’e 3 successfully executed a soft landing on the surface of the moon. Before Saturday, the last Moon landing was in 1976, back when the unmanned Soviet craft Luna 24 touched down.
This significant feat raises a lot of questions like:
What’s the use of going to the moon anyway?
China now joins the US and the Soviet Union as the only countries to have ever landed on the moon. The US is still the only one to conduct manned missions to the moon. Yes, I know some of you may think the moon landing was a hoax, but I, as a non-expert, am not going to argue with other non-experts about something none of us really know much about.
So it has a lot to do with prestige. “Look what we can accomplish: only superpowers go to the moon, right? And our technology does not suck like it used to. After all, it’s at least partly powering the computer, tablet or phone you are reading this drivel on right now. Now we’ve got a buggy on the moon too. Case closed.”
From National Geographic:
Firstly, the moon is remote from us, and there is no clear short-term benefit for human beings. The lunar exploration program is driven by its science goals. That is, to understand the history and prospect the future of the Moon, the Earth, and our solar system.
–Space scientist Yongchun Zheng of the National Astronomical Observatories in Beijing
Why the 37-year wait?
No country or corporation went to the moon for 37 years because there wasn’t a good enough reason to go for those that had already been and no one else could afford it. It’s expensive and the cost benefit analysis says it’s not worth it unless you’ve got something to prove. Besides, NASA brought back lots of rocks in the seventies and some haven’t even been studied yet (why the hell not?).
Is there still a space race?
Believe it or not, almost every country has a space program. Of course this doesn’t mean they’re all whizzing around exploring like Captain Kirk. It’s mostly about satellite communications and stuff like that. Some countries haven’t even really done anything yet, but they still have a space agency.
China has effectively upped the game on the space race, but until there is a financially feasible way to extract valuable minerals from moon rocks I don’t think any other countries are going to send up another lunar rocket (I’m looking at you, India). Newt Gingrich’s moon colony will not happen any time soon either.
Watch footage China’s moon landing below. And yes, I also think it looks like a computer animation. #justsaying