China is now planning to begin fully using its third space station by 2022 to put astronauts in the lunar base later in that decade and send probes to Mars, including those that could return samples from the surface of Mars back to Earth.
Even though the moon is a hard-erated country after decades of research, the new landing is far more than a mere propaganda strike, experts say.
The crater where the Chinese landed is the oldest and deepest of the moon, and the discovery of the probe can provide insights into the origin and evolution of the moon. And some scientists suspect that the surrounding basin may be rich in minerals. If the utilization of Moon resources is the next step in space development, a successful mission could keep the Chinese better positioned.
"This is a great achievement technically and symbolically," Namrata Goswami, an independent analyst who wrote about the space for the Minerva Research Institute at the Ministry of Defense, said. "China believes this landing is just a stepping stone, because it also sees its future by landing on the moon, because its long-term goal is to colonize the moon and use it as a huge energy supply."
The place where the investigation is being investigated, Goswami said, could become a future fuel base for missions deeper into space, in a way that "the navy was looking at coalition stations, for refueling and re-fueling."
Chang's e-4 was launched by Xichang, in southwestern China, early in the morning on December 8, and landed in the final, lower orbit around the moon on Sunday, 22 days later.
It landed on Von Kárman, a flat function about 177 kilometers wide which sits in a larger basin near the southern pole of the moon. The main flier will release 136 kg rover, which, while retaining the crash, will wander the crater. (The name of the rover, subject to public competition and voting, has not yet been revealed.)
The instruments of the ship and the rover include cameras, radar and spectrometers penetrating the ground, to help identify the composition of the area that was formed by the meteorite. Scientists hope that rocks and dirt in the area will contribute to understanding the geology of the moon.
The lander will also conduct a biological experiment to see if plant seeds will germinate, and silkworm eggs will open into low gravity of the moon.
Since the moon prevents direct communication from farther, China has launched a satellite to act as a relay, allowing the rover to bounce signals first before they continue to return to scientists on the ground.
Before the landing, Chang's reports were rather rare-leaving astronomical experts and amateurs clearing for clues.
In contrast, in recent days, US space agencies have thrilled the success of the NASA spacecraft, the New Horizons, for capturing photos of Ultima Thule, a small, glacial world at a height of 6.4 billion kilometers from Earth.
Some people might ask: "So what?" says John M. Loggsdon, Assistant Professor at the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, but scientists have a different attitude.
"We are learning more about the moon," Logsdon said. "It happens in a place that no spaceship has ever visited, so it's a real exploration."
China's membership in the elite ranks of the space nations was undoubtedly a source of national pride, carefully managed to emphasize the strong and stable leadership of the Communist Party.
China is only the third country – after the United States and Russia – to send its astronauts into space on their missiles. The first mission of the crew was held in 2003, and the Chinese have since sent 11 astronauts in space. In 2016, two of them spent 30 days in the space station of China.
In 2018, for the first time, China launched more missiles in space – 38 – from any other country; one start failed in October. Another moon landing, on Chang's e-5, is planned for later this year.
Many of them launched last year carried satellites for China's own version of the Global Positioning System, which already covers China and most of Asia. China hopes its system, called Beidu, will cover the entire world by next year and become a commercial and political rival to the United States.
If the International Space Station is deactivated – the Trump administration has proposed ending federal funding for this by 2025 – Tiangong-2 could become the only space station in orbit. The International Space Station hosted astronauts from more than a dozen countries, but China was never among them.
The New York Times