Guest essay by Eric Worrall
An in-progress low key Chinese robotic sample and return mission is challenging the commonly held assumption that the USA is still the dominant player in deep space missions.
China’s Chang’e 5 poised for historic moon landing to collect lunar samples
China has reached a major milestone in its quest to bring home moon rocks, with its Chang’e 5 mission spacecraft separating into two pairs of vehicles in preparation for a lunar landing.
The Chang’e 5 spacecraft launched on Nov. 23 intent on becoming the first mission to bring lunar samples to Earth since 1976; the mission reached lunar orbit on Nov. 28. According to China’s state-run news agency Xinhua, the mission’s orbiter/return vehicle and its lander/ascender vehicle separated in lunar orbit yesterday (Nov. 29) at 3:40 p.m. EST (2040 GMT; 4:40 a.m. Beijing time on Nov. 30). That move sets the stage for a landing near the peak of Mons Rümker, a mountain in the Oceanus Procellarum (“Ocean of Storms”) region of the moon.
“The spacecraft is performing well and communication with ground control is normal,” officials with China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) said according to Xinhua.
..,Read more: https://www.space.com/china-chang-e-5-moon-lander-separates-from-orbiter
Why do I think a low key unmanned robotic mission poses such a threat to US space supremacy?
The reason is if China decides on the basis of this mission to increase their Lunar activity, China’s friend Russia has spent over a decade developing nuclear launch technology which China could use to make a major expansion into space affordable.
In as little as 10 years, China could be building major industrial bases on the Moon, with the help of Russian nuclear powered reusable space launch vehicles.
By 2030, with Chinese and Russian flags flying on the moon, the USA could be staring into the face of at least two decades of desperate catchup, to get back into a game which America once dominated.
Note: The Russian nuclear launch technology is based on the 1960s US NERVA programme. Stationary ground based testing of NERVA at the time was perceived as an outstanding success, making NERVA a strong candidate for powering a manned mission to Mars, and resupplying a permanent moon base planned for 1981. Despite bipartisan support from Congress in 1972, the programme was cancelled by President Richard Nixon in 1973, part way through building a full scale NERVA launch vehicle, while Nixon was embroiled in the Watergate scandal.