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Chinese planning on going to the moon.
November 23, 2001 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Chinese planning on going to the moon. I know some would like to see the US return the moon. Some think it was all staged in a big hoax, but could a joint US/Chinese mission be possible by say 2010? What companies in China are working to make this possible? Would having Russia next door make the program any better? Personally, I'm glad to see someone will be returning to the moon.
posted by brent (24 comments total)

 
Maybe they'll meet Jonathan King.
posted by johnny novak at 11:30 AM on November 23, 2001


No, he's in Belmarsh. Says so in the article you linked to.
posted by walrus at 11:35 AM on November 23, 2001


looks like the chinese want a red moon. they better see this guy.
posted by stevridie at 11:47 AM on November 23, 2001


People always wonder why America never went back to the moon after the early 1970s. The reason is because we discovered, with redundant finality, after all our trips, all our photographs, and all our explorations, that there is absolutely nothing the hell on the moon worth seeing, doing, or taking. The place is nothing more or less than a godawful desert, very much like a hundred sites right here on earth, totally devoid of value or interest. The only possible use for this vast, sterile rock, would be as a kind of cosmic midden, to which we could rocket our spent nuclear fuel, plastic containers, old AA batteries, etc. If the Chinese are hoping to use the moon for this entirely salutary purpose, there is no need for them to visit first. I hope they'll spare the people's purse, and forget this cockamamie idea.
posted by Faze at 12:03 PM on November 23, 2001


I won't be holding my breath. According to the article, they won't even be planning to send manned spaceflights up at all until 2005; and the moonshot is a decade "Or Longer" away.

My own feeling about NASA's current malaise - and my disappointment in failure of The Great Dream of my generation - was expressed pretty well by Laurie Anderson in 1984:

"I remember when we were going into outer space. I remember when the President said we were going to look for things in outer space. And I remember the way the astronauts talked and the way everybody was watching because there was a chance that they would burn up on the launching pad or that the rocket would take off from Cape Canaveral and land in Fort Lauderdale five minutes later by mistake. And now we’re not even trying to get that far. Now it’s more like the bus. Now it’s more like they go up just high enough to get a good view. They aim the camera back down. They don’t aim the camera up. And then they take pictures and come right back and develop them. That’s what it’s like now. Now that’s what it’s like."
posted by Perigee at 12:11 PM on November 23, 2001


I hope the US doesn't get involved in another moonshot. It's a colossal waste of money and human energy.
posted by neuroshred at 12:54 PM on November 23, 2001


Note to Laurie Anderson (above): We went looking for things in outer space, and by the time we'd explored our second heavenly body pretty thoroughly (Mars), it became abundantly clear that beyond our little atmosphere, there is nothing but rocks and physics. Face it, space is a snooze. Give me a Mexican soap opera any day.
posted by Faze at 12:55 PM on November 23, 2001


Nothing but rocks? Some think that there's a possibility of finding a little bit more, beneath the frozen seas of Europa.
posted by skwm at 1:04 PM on November 23, 2001


> beyond our little atmosphere, there is nothing but rocks
> and physics.

The idea was to put something else there, namely us.
posted by jfuller at 1:45 PM on November 23, 2001


but then we're only looking at our solar system. no one seems to care to even try to look beyond the solar system, to another star. For the countless stars in our galaxy, each of which could carry planets around their gravitational pull, the possibilities of there being more out there just simply intriguing.
posted by benjh at 2:29 PM on November 23, 2001


They'll have to ask jenaro for permission, first.
posted by signal at 2:38 PM on November 23, 2001


Personally, I'm glad to see someone will be returning to the moon.

me too. it's lonely here.
posted by mcsweetie at 3:37 PM on November 23, 2001


The reason is because we discovered, with redundant finality, after all our trips, all our photographs, and all our explorations, that there is absolutely nothing the hell on the moon worth seeing, doing, or taking.

I don't believe NASA made this kind of statement and if I recall my history correctly there were more ambitious plans for space exploration on NASA's plate. Maybe the holders of the purse-strings came to this conclusion, but I doubt it holds any water with astronomers, astro-physicists, or any space scientist.

I just can't get enough of the irony that a self-described socialist country is attempting to do something the laissez-faire US never did: make space exploration profitable.
posted by skallas at 5:13 PM on November 23, 2001



People always wonder why America never went back to the moon after the early 1970s. The reason is because we discovered, with redundant
finality, after all our trips, all our photographs, and all our explorations, that there is absolutely nothing the hell on the moon worth seeing,
doing, or taking. The place is nothing more or less than a godawful desert, very much like a hundred sites right here on earth, totally devoid
of value or interest.


This reminded me of a Bruce Sterling article from a few years ago, Hard Times: A letter from 2035:


Like, we never quite made it to Mars, because manned space flight has no real commercial potential. But it turned out to be surprisingly useful to plan how to settle on Mars. Because if you can settle Mars, the Gobi desert is a suburb. In 2035 we have big, new, booming communities in the Gobi, the Mojave, and the Sahara. Lots of free solar power there, big airtight malls, entertainment piped in on fiber optic--it's a great life.

posted by electro at 8:23 PM on November 23, 2001


Well, the Moon's the only place where you can't order out moo shu pork or General Tso's chicken, so it had to happen eventually.
posted by gimonca at 8:34 PM on November 23, 2001


What companies in China are working to make this possible?

It's called the WTO in less than 30 days. Inside China tho, a lot of township and village factories, "tve"s, could very easily make the parts necessary - and at a fraction of the cost.

---

Dear Jiang Zemin, President of the People's Republic, Member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo, and Party Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party:

Let's get out of the economic slump, finish joining the WTO, continue on the Socialist Road, focus on getting Taiwan to rejoin China as a SAR, and spend money on the Olympics in 2008 instead of worrying about the moon.
posted by pooldemon at 4:09 AM on November 24, 2001


There's over six billion people on Earth, with a baby born somewhere on the planet every 1.5 seconds. If we don't figure out how to colonize other heavenly bodies, it's gonna get really crowded.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:43 AM on November 24, 2001


At least China does something about the population problem.
posted by pooldemon at 4:53 AM on November 24, 2001


We went to the moon to beat the Soviets to it and to demonstrate our military and technological might. You think China might have similar motivations -- showing the world that the United States isn't the only superpower?
posted by Holden at 5:26 AM on November 24, 2001


There's over six billion people on Earth, with a baby born somewhere on the planet every 1.5 seconds. If we don't figure out how to colonize other heavenly bodies, it's gonna get really crowded.

One thing space colonization is not an answer for is overpopulation. It will be a long time before any colony is large enough, or we could move people quickly enough, to make an appreciable dent in our population problem.

But let's say we could, and we magically shifted half the earth's population to Earth 2. How much breathing room would that give us? Well, the earth's population is doubling every X years (I don't know what the current value of X is, but it's no more than a few decades). That means, in the absence of some cultural shift in the way we have babies, we would have only X years until both planets were as crowded as the earth is now, only ours would be that much more depleted and impoverished by the expense of the colonization effort.

That's not an argument against colonization, just a reality check on the idea that space colonies will do much directly for the quality of life on earth.
posted by rodii at 9:48 AM on November 24, 2001


...nothing but rocks? Moon Mining: "Could it ever be possible to replenish the earth's supplies of gemstones and little-known rare metals such as osmium and rhodium by sending humans, or even robots, into space to set up mining ventures on the inhospitable surface of the moon?"
posted by Carol Anne at 10:17 AM on November 24, 2001


Well, of course the real reasons for going to the moon had little to do with what we could find there, but with the act of accomplishing it per se and the geopolitical chops that represented. When JFK made the pledge we were seriously behind the Soviets in space technology: late with satellites, late with people in orbit. In the end we got there, and they didn't.

NASA, of course, maintained a fantasy throughout the process that this was a continuous track of exploration, militarization, colonization, and then beyond the moon. (They've consistently had a problem, alas, with their visionary dreams matching up with political and budgetary realities.) What few people realize is that the Nixon administration had effectively cancelled the tail-end of even the existing series of moon launches years before (in late 1970) they were to launch (in 1973-74). Programs like Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz were essentially gap-fillers that were done with existing equipment and capability, which extended NASA's justification for running Cape Canaveral at full complement, but did little to extend long-term missions of the space agency. The shuttle was delayed again and again, and by the time it arrived it was dramatically more expensive than even the most pessimistic NASA projections, so the dream even of continuing a low-earth-orbit presence was curtailed from STS-1.

The only reason the US might have continued the program would be that there was a corresponding USSR effort, and that was no longer true. It was all about prestige. Which brings us to China.

China clearly has a bone in its craw about becoming the 3rd independently space-faring nation. They've had to buy some of the supporting technology from Russia, who's been only to happy/broke to oblige, but they're still developing a lot of critical launch technology on their own (or stealing it when they can). That said, their manned space program has lagged far behind their own copious announcements, and this moon-shot story is really nothing particularly new. [The minister] ... gave no details or timetable for the mission ... color me shocked. They like to periodically announce that this sort of thing is "imminent", part of "concrete plans for the future" and the like, but they haven't, so far, even accomplished a single crewed launch even to a partial orbit a la Alan Shepard. When they do that, I'll start believing they're serious about this.
posted by dhartung at 12:31 PM on November 24, 2001


...nothing but rocks? If they find the black obelisk we are really in trouble.
posted by Mack Twain at 5:51 PM on November 24, 2001


Big lumbering giants have to go and leave their scent on everything.
Why can't they keep it in their pants?
posted by lagado at 3:45 AM on November 25, 2001


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