By Washington Post and Telegraph
The Chinese Moon landing shows the emerging superpower is a growing threat to Britain and the world, government sources and military experts have said.
This week the China National Space Administration confirmed touchdown on the dark side of the Moon – the first time any nation has achieved the feat – and transmitted the first-ever close range image from the surface.
Such a landing is tricky because one side of the Moon always points towards Earth making it impossible to communicate from the ‘dark’ half. The Chinese needed to launch a separate satellite to relay signals back to mission control.
China’s space program achieved a first Thursday: a landing on what’s known as the dark side of the moon. The milestone brings the country closer to its goal of becoming a space power.
Three nations — the United States, the former Soviet Union and more recently China — have sent spacecraft to the near side of the moon, which faces Earth, but this landing is the first-ever on the far side.
The China National Space Administration said the 10:26 a.m. touchdown of the Chang’e 4 craft has “opened up a new chapter in human lunar exploration.”
A photo taken at 11:40 a.m. and sent back by Chang’e 4 shows a small crater and a barren surface that appears to be illuminated by a light from the lunar explorer. Its name comes from that of a Chinese goddess who, according to legend, has lived on the moon for thousands of years.
The landing highlights China’s growing ambitions to rival the United States, Russia and Europe in space, and more broadly, to cement the nation’s position as a regional and global power.
“The space dream is part of the dream to make China stronger,” President Xi Jinping said in 2013, shortly after becoming China’s leader.
In year-end wrap-ups, Chinese media and officials hailed the December 8 launch of Chang’e 4 as one of the nation’s major achievements in 2018.
“On the whole, China’s space technology still lags behind the West, but with the landing on the far side of the moon, we have raced to the front,” said Hou Xiyun, a professor at Nanjing University’s school of astronomy and space science.
He added that China has Mars, Jupiter and asteroids in its sights: “There’s no doubt that our nation will go farther and farther.”
In 2013, Chang’e 3, the predecessor craft to the current mission, made the first moon landing since the former Soviet Union’s Luna 24 in 1976. The United States is the only country that has successfully sent a person to the moon, though China is considering a crewed mission too.
For now, it plans to send a Chang’e 5 probe to the moon next year and have it return to Earth with samples — also not done since the Soviet mission in 1976.
The moon’s far side isn’t always dark but is sometimes called the dark side because it faces away from Earth and is relatively unknown. It has a different composition than the near side, where previous missions have landed.
Chang’e 4, a combined lander and rover, will make astronomical observations and probe the structure and mineral composition above and below the surface.
China conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, becoming only the third country to do so after Russia and the United States. It has put a pair of space stations into orbit and plans to launch a Mars rover in the mid-2020s.
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