Chinese land a rover on the dark side of the moon

Published by marco on

The article China makes history by landing on the far side of the Moon by Eric Berger (Ars Technica) has pretty exciting news.

“a Beijing-based control center commanded the spacecraft to begin the landing procedure at 9:15pm ET Monday (10:15am, Tuesday, local time), from an altitude of 15km above the lunar surface. During an 11-minute descent, Chang’e-4 slowed its speed from 1.7 km/s to nearly zero before it landed in the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin.”

This is a science mission, but I’m really hoping that they’re going there to check out resources, as well. If we ever want to get serious about space, we need to get robots mining materials on the Moon to build structures for orbit. The only things we should be heavy-lifting from Earth are (maybe) humans and any rare-earth or other minerals that are not available on the Moon.

And, of course, since it’s Ars Technica and they have a couple of guys who are always on the lookout for the next cold war, the article ends by chiding the Chinese for lack of “openness”.

“It is also notable that China’s state news service provided no live coverage of Monday night’s landing attempt. Many of the country’s launches—and more difficult efforts in space—are only reported after the fact, when they are successful. This echoes the Soviet approach during the space race in the 1960s, when many of their spaceflight activities took place covertly, while NASA had its successes and failures covered in real time.”

This is actually untrue: NASA covered its successes and failures in real time because it wanted to rub everyone’s nose in what it was doing. That was the whole point of the Space Race as far as America was concerned. You can’t brag about winning if no-one knows you ran, right? And how much space stuff have we seen since the end of the cold war? The U.S. finally has hegemony and has seemingly lost all interest in space because it’s no fun without competition.[1] So it’s moved to private industry—because obviously they’ll be able to do it much better than the gubmint.

If we want to call it cultural, let’s call it cultural. The US would have had 96 hours of coverage in advance, complete with 8-talking-head-panels to tell us how this was the final nail in the coffin for the Chinese and the Russians—no disrespect, of course. The Chinese did it, prepared a presentation and released it. I honestly prefer the latter. I wouldn’t have taken part in a see-it-live circus, anyway.

But Berger wasn’t done. Not only did the Chinese not broadcast it properly and according to well-established, Western standards of media presentation, there is a more sinister note.

“This may reinforce the concern of some lunar scientists and spaceflight experts, who warn that if we want to see the Moon developed under Western norms of freedom and openness, then NASA and US businesses had better lead the return and development of the Moon during the coming decade.”

OMG, the Chinese are taking over the Moon. Run. Hide.

This attitude is so tiresome, really. Americans just can’t view any issue other than through the lens of their own patriotism. What could possibly lead anyone to believe that the US would be doing things any more “free and open” than the Chinese? Is there any history that leads you to that conclusion? Wasn’t/Isn’t Russia a so-called restricted and closed society? Who’s been carting American asses into space since the Space Shuttle program ended? The Russians, that’s who.

This is just bullshit saber-rattling based on a completely fallacious reading of history from a resident of the United States of Amnesia. It’s the same shit that gets trotted out every time the Empire sees anyone else make any progress at all.


[1] There’s also the matter of a couple of space shuttles—Columbia and Challenger—that blew up—and suddenly NASA started being much more Asian about its news coverage. On top of that, NASA was involved in many military missions for which details are still scarce.