Sky & Telescope - June 2020 - 4

SPECTRUM

by Peter Tyson

China's Dream

The Essential Guide to Astronomy
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and Helen Spence Federer

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EDITORIAL
Editor in Chief Peter Tyson
Senior Editors J. Kelly Beatty, Alan M. MacRobert
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Observing Editor Diana Hannikainen
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Contributing Editors
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Tom Field, Tony Flanders, Ted Forte, Sue French,
Steve Gottlieb, David Grinspoon, Shannon Hall,
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Donald W. Olson, Jerry Oltion, Joe Rao, Dean Regas,
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CNSA / CLEP / DOUG ELLISON

enjoyed preeminence in space exploration. It has sent probes to
all planets in the solar system and placed robots on the surface of
Mars eight times, among many other signal achievements.
Other space agencies besides NASA have accomplished great
feats during that time as well, of course, most notably those of Russia, the
European Union, and Japan. And in recent years, new spacefaring hopefuls have
entered the arena, including India and the United Arab Emirates.
But one country arguably harbors aspirations to supplant all other nations,
including the U.S., in the exploration and use of space: China. And some analysts believe it has the drive and the resources to do so. As Andrew Jones makes
clear in his cover story on page 34, the Celestial Empire has plans for an impressive array of space missions through the 2020s and beyond.
The U.S. last put a man on the Moon in 1972. Since NASA retired the Space
Shuttle in 2011, it has struggled to build its replacement spacecraft. It relies on
Russia to send American astronauts to the International Space Station, or ISS (at more than $80
million a seat). Successive U.S. administrations have
waffled in their space aims, pushing for the Moon,
then Mars, then the Moon again.
China, meanwhile, appears to be dead-set on its
chosen course. As stated in a November 2019 report
to Congress by the U.S.-China Economic and SecuThe Chang'e 4 lander on
rity Review Commission, the People's Republic has "a
the Moon's farside
single-minded focus and national-level commitment
to establishing itself as a global space leader." The report quotes President Xi
as declaring that his country's "space dream" is to "explore the vast universe,
develop aerospace enterprises, and build a strong aerospace country."
While it got a comparatively late start, China has rapidly caught up to other
top spacefaring nations. In 2013, just 10 years after it launched into orbit its
first taikonaut (yes, that's the term), China became only the third country to
soft-land a spacecraft on the Moon. Last year, a second Chinese spacecraft,
Chang'e 4, alighted on the Moon's farside - a first for any nation.
Accomplishing firsts seems to be central to China's strategy. The country
plans to construct a Chinese space station even as the ISS ages, its future uncertain. If it succeeds with current proposals, the People's Republic might be the
first nation to return a sample of Mars regolith to Earth and to erect a crewed
research station on the Moon.
So which nation will predominate in space 50 years
from now? It might just be China.

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Hannah Jang-Condell, University of Wyoming

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Sky & Telescope - June 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sky & Telescope - June 2020

Contents
Sky & Telescope - June 2020 - Cover1
Sky & Telescope - June 2020 - Cover2
Sky & Telescope - June 2020 - 1
Sky & Telescope - June 2020 - Contents
Sky & Telescope - June 2020 - 3
Sky & Telescope - June 2020 - 4
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