BY SILVI WRITER
China made a huge leap forward in space exploration last week by successfully landing an unmanned probe on the Moon’s far side.
On Thursday China landed a robotic spacecraft called Chang’e 4 on the dark side of the Moon in a space exploration world first, touching down at 10.26am local time (2.26am GMT). It became the first country to do so.
But numerous experts have warned of the dangers of China’s space exploration programme.
They point to the growing chasm between peaceful US scientific programmes devoted to exploration and discovery, and Chinese plans to turn space into what US vice-president, Mike Pence, has described a “war-fighting domain”.
Does this signal a space race between the US and China???
Let’s see what experts and pundits say.
Chief Scientist, the Chang’e 4 programme
China is making a tremendous effort to become a space power. This mission will be a landmark event in this endeavor.
China’s national English newspaper
Although its space industry is comparatively young, China’s commitment to the exploration of outer space has always been crystal clear and consistent. It is committed to the principle of using outer space for peaceful purposes, and opposes the militarization of or an arms race in outer space. Its door is open to international cooperation in space exploration.
All these should help mitigate global concerns that it is contributing to outer space becoming a new front line for competition and confrontation among countries.
The Chang’e 4 lunar probe itself is a good example of international cooperation: It is equipped with instruments developed by scientists from Sweden, Germany and China to study the lunar environment, cosmic radiation and the interaction between solar wind and the moon surface. Its power equipment is supplied by radioisotope sources of electricity produced in Russia.
Wendy Whitman Cobb
Associate Professor of Political Science, Cameron University
As a space policy researcher, I can say the answer is yes and no. Some US officials, including Scott Pace, the executive secretary for the National Space Council, are cautiously optimistic about the potential for cooperation and do not see the beginning of a new space race.
NASA Administrator Jim Brindenstine recently met with the head of the Chinese space programme at the International Astronautical Conference in Germany and discussed areas where China and the U.S. can work together. However, increased military presence in space might spark increased competition.
The Trump administration has used the threat posed by China and Russia to support its argument for a new independent military branch, a Space Force.
Regardless, China’s abilities in space are growing to the extent that is reflected in popular culture. In Andy Weir’s 2011 novel The Martian and its later film version, NASA turns to China to help rescue its stranded astronaut.
While competition can lead to advances in technology, as the first space race demonstrated, a greater global capacity for space exploration can also be beneficial not only for saving stranded astronauts but increasing knowledge about the universe where we all live.
Even if China’s rise heralds a new space race, not all consequences will be negative.
Professor, the Macau University of Science and Technology
This space mission shows that China has reached the advanced world-class level in deep space exploration.
We Chinese people have done something that the Americans have not dared try.
Professor, Nanjing University
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.
Bloomberg Opinion columnist and author of “Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade”
China is open about the fact that it isn’t merely looking to expand human knowledge and boundaries; it’s hoping to supplant the U.S. as the 21st century’s dominant space power.
But the truth is, thanks to the development of a dynamic, fast-moving American commercial space industry, China’s almost certain to be a runner-up for decades to come.
the space adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign
It’s part of a more total Chinese effort.
This is an indication China has the capability to use the moon for military matters. If you look at what they’re doing in the South China Sea.
There are a number of elements to what the People’s Liberation Army is doing in terms of aggressive military policy but space is a very big one.