China continues its Long March to the Moon

Soon to be joined by another nation's flag? Happy July 4th!

Soon to be joined by another nation’s flag? Happy July 4th!

I have a new post up at Air & Space discussing some recent developments in the Chinese space program and what they might mean.  Comment here if you are so moved.

FYI, below are some of my previous posts on the Chinese space program in general and their lunar efforts in particular:



A&S Jan 2012        China’s Long March to the Moon

A&S June 2012      China and the Moon

SLR June 2013      China in Space: A Threat or Not?

SLR Nov 5, 2013    China, America and the Moon: Boldness and Abdication

SLR Nov 30, 2013  China in Space

SLR March 2014    Surrendering in Space

SLR April 2014       International Repercussions [Part 2] The Power Vacuum

SLR Sept 2014       American Space Program Reflects Standing in the World

A&S Nov 6, 2014    China is Now Positioned to Dominate the Moon

A&S May 2015        China and the “Dark Side”

This entry was posted in China space program, Lunar development, Lunar exploration, space policy, space technology, Space transportation. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to China continues its Long March to the Moon

  1. Grand Lunar says:

    I find it likely that China will see the utilization of lunar resources as a means of projection of power, much as the US did when it came to Apollo and the Cold War.

    Popular science writers have written that we don’t need another space race.

    I think we do. We just need to do it differently.

  2. Joe says:

    Another point about the Pong March 7 launch.

    Its payload included:

    “A sub-scale capsule for a next-generation crew spaceship also flew on Saturday’s launch for an atmospheric re-entry test, kicking off development of a spacecraft to replace China’s Shenzhou crew transport, CASC said in a statement.”

    Be interesting to know if the new vehicle is being designed with Lunar Flight Requirements,

  3. Its pretty simple, IMO. The more a nation invests in scientific and technological advancement, the wealthier and more strategically powerful that nation will become. And that’s the core reason why the ruling oligarchy in China is investing in space technology and exploration.

    While some US politicians still view America’s investment in space as a wasteful folly, the scientist and engineers in China’s ruling communist party seem to have a much clearer understanding of the true economic and strategic value of space travel.


  4. Warren Platts says:

    The Chang’E 5 mission will return a sample of the lunar maria on the near side, probably from an area close to the landing site of their previous Chang’E 3 mission (although it would be more scientifically valuable if they chose a different site).

    Maybe not. The Chang’E 3 rover was “supposed” to land at Sinus Iridum, but instead landed around 200 km to the east. This happens to be quite close to a published ground penetrating radar (GPR) track made from orbit by Kaguya a few years earlier. Thus, the Chang’E 3 rover with its own GPR was essentially able to groundtruth the Kaguya results, which it did by finding a major reflective layer at about 360 m down that Kaguya also reported. Coincidence?

    These results also confirm a bit of my own research: that the lunar mare basalts are structurally similar to the Columbia River Basalt Group. The individual layers there are on the order of 100 m thick; located at the boundaries of these flows are a so-called “interflow zone” on the order of 10 m thick that are sufficiently porous and permeable to form effective confined aquifers and natural gas traps.

    Numerous “meniscus hollows” or (lunar maars) have been identified on the Moon (98 by my last count), but they are all confined to the mare basalt region, albeit there is no other obvious pattern to their distribution. (cf. Paul’s article “It’s a Gas Man!” on the Ina D-caldera). Peter Schultz and others proposed the theory that volatile outgassing, with CO2 and H2O as the most likely culprits, caused these unusual features.

    The thing is, if H2O is really involved, two things would have to happen: (1) the pressure would have to at least exceed the overburden pressure (on the order of a half a bar), and the temperature would have to be above the freezing point (because if it was ice, it wouldn’t explode). Thus at those temperatures and pressures, the H2O would necessarily have to be in liquid form. If there were CO2 as well, this would dissolve in that water. Now you’ve got all the ingredients for a nice little cryovolcano.

    So think of it: structural layers of basalt capable of storing liquid water at shallow depths, plus morphological features that provide direct physical evidence of recent outgassing events. Perhaps that is the reasoning for the Chang’E 5 sample return. Note that there is a dense cluster of these hollows that have been identified about 500 km to the west of the Chang’E 3 landing site (the Gruithuisen Group). A sample return might be able to provide direct geochemical evidence of liquid water (e.g., trace amounts of phyllosilicates that wouldn’t be obvious to orbital platforms like the Moon Mineralogy Mapper).

    Granted, it’s a long shot for a long march; but the upside would be huge. As far as I know, there is not a single known, empirical, scientific fact that falsifies the above theory–although it certainly flies in the face of the received lunar lore. George Sowers of ULA recently made news when he stated publicly that ULA would be willing to pay $500/kg for lunar-derived rocket propellant. They would even be willing to take delivery themselves at the lunar surface. (But it’s got to be clean, mass ratio 5 LO2/LH2.)

    Using his own figures, I calculated that a 3 mT drilling rig could produce 10,000 mT of H2O/yr, at a wellhead price of like $3.45/Liter. It’s hard to imagine that producing water from the Moon’s polar regions could be done for anywhere near that price. It could be that the CNSA is hoping for a “leapfrog” technology in the Imbrium Basin….


  5. Warren Platts says:

    Actually, I have a question for Paul on GPRs. I ran into Robert Zubrin last time I was in Colorado, and he was wracking his brain trying to think of a way to remote sense the subsurface around those hollows using existing orbital assets. The only way I can think of doing it would be to run LRO in bistatic mode with Arecibo beaming at its 47 MHz frequency (6.4 m wavelength). The question is whether there is a clever way to get LRO to measure echoes at that wavelength…

    • Paul Spudis says:

      The question is whether there is a clever way to get LRO to measure echoes at that wavelength…

      No — the spacecraft is not equipped to receive any signals of that wavelength.

Comments are closed.