China is expected to launch a fresh lunar mission this week, which will, according to Xinhua “test technology likely to be used in Chang’e-5, a future lunar probe with the ability to return to Earth.” Xinhua said it will happen between Friday and Sunday.
(Hit tip, our friend, Dr Morris Jones.)
Dr Jones believes China is “also testing technology for a future Chinese astronaut launch to the Moon.” More on his views here.
While it’s exciting for China, it basically mimics past missions by the US and Russia. As Neal Stephenson noted in his innovation essay:
China is frequently cited as a country now executing on Big Stuff, and there’s no doubt they are constructing dams, high-speed rail systems, and rockets at an extraordinary clip. But those are not fundamentally innovative. Their space program, like all other countries’ (including our own), is just parroting work that was done 50 years ago by the Soviets and the Americans.
The big question, of course, is who will push further into space with more ambitious human missions and new technologies for travel? The Chinese space program also underscores the effect of such efforts on perceptions of geopolitical success, the astropolitik.