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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 08:56, February 07, 2007
Why does China want to probe moon?
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China plans to launch its first satellite, or "Chang'e 1", this year to "orbit" the moon, says Ouyang Ziyuan, a top academician of the prestigiousChinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the first scientist of China's moon orbiting project, at a recent "popular science forum of veteran scientists. A moon probing device is to launch around 2010 along with a moonbuggy, and all parts and accessories of the project are developed and made with China's own efforts.

The debugging and trial-test of major systems for Chang'e 1 project have already completed, and full and meticulous preparations for the launch of Chang'e satellite will complete in February, according to the "Shenzhen Special Zone Daily".

China's moon probing mission is divided into "three maor steps", namely, the first step from 2004 to 2007 with the launch of a satellite to "orbit" the moon, abbreviated as "orbiting"; the second step from 2007 to 2012 with a soft landing on the moon surface along with an "inspecting probing of robots and probing devices, abbreviated as "landing"; and the third step with a soft land on the moon surface and the return of the moonbuggy with collected lunar samples, abbreviated as "return". And it can be anticipated that China is capable of realizing the manned moon flight between 2020 and 2025.

Moon probing is the "job that has to be done"

Moon probing has drawn an extensive, keen attention globally, and it is very hard and difficult for China to receive any technical assistance from other countries in this trying endeavor, Ouyang Ziyuan noted. Moreover, he quoted the "Science and Technology Daily" as saying that the budget for the first phase of China's moon probing scheme amounted to 1.4 billion yuan (or 175 million US dollars), which is to be materialized in three years. The Apollo moon landing program launched by NASA in the 1960s and 1970s cost the United States a total of 25.6 billion US dollars, and it gave rise to rapid advancement of its science and technology and economic take-off. So the moon probing is "the job that has to be done", Ouyang said.

In reality, China has myriads of thorny economic, social and environmental issues to cope with. Why does it want to "reach the moon" when people are still unable to do things on the globe well? This is precisely because the moon probing suggests a nation's comprehensive national strength and it is of significance to increasing China's international prestige and the cohesive power of the Chinese nation, Ouyang said. And it represents a new milestone after the manned space flight and the launch of application satellites and a major hallmark in the high-tech development of a nation. Furthermore, mineral deposits, energy resources and environment on the moon constitute a crucial sphere for the humankind and, if China fails to make any inquires into this sphere, the country accordingly will not have any right to speak about in this regard.

Giving rise to overall new, high-tech attainment

The humankind realized its first moon probing for a near-distance observation of the moon surface in 1959, unfolded an upsurge in moon exploration from 1959 to 1976 and, after an 18-year relatively peaceful period, kicked off another round of craze following 1994, Ouyang recalled..

In addition to telescope, he noted, scientists have launched a diversity of devices and even performed the manned flight to probe the moon and spurred the overall development of new and high technologies. By resorting to moon probing, scientists very much want to study the source of matters of the solar system, the process of the fractional distillation, cohesion and formation of the solar nebula, and the features, origins and evolution of the atmosphere, ionosphere and magnetic fields of the planets and satellites.

Moon can serve as the storage of resources

Many rocks and minerals on the moon resemble their counterparts on the earth in term of their compositions and structures, Ouyang acknowledged. The distributing zone of basalt on the moon occupies an area as large as China's land space, and its thickness is one or two kilometers. The ilmenite content make up over 20 percent of the basalt on the moon, and is even richer and more plentiful than that contended in the vanadium-titanic magnetite inter-grown in and around the city of Panzhihua, southwestern China. Moreover, the moon with uranium, rare earth, phosphorus, potassium and other mineral resources, all in profuse, can serve as a resources storage for the earth.

Pertaining to the future energy strategy for humankind

The moon is really a unique, amazing treasure house of an infinite and inexhaustible energy source. The sunlight radiation energy that reaches the moon sphere can generate approximately 12 trillion kilowatts annually and, if three solar power plants with parallel-connection are put up on the moon, the humankind is sure to have plentiful stable solar energy.

There is a very unique resource in the moon soil and, if it is tapped, it will meet the energy demand of the humankind for close to 10,000 years. Furthermore, the moon soil contains an isotopic element named "helium (HE) 3", which is a type of very sanitary, safe and cheap, but highly-efficient nuclear fusion fuel for power generation. The output of electricity generated by three tons of helium 3 can satisfy China's energy consumption output for a whole year.

A commanding height for environment monitoring

With a very special space environmental resource on the moon, and high-precision and low-cost astronomical observation posts and research bases to be built in this environment, the moon can be the top height for environment monitoring with vital military importance.

If launch sites are constructed on the moon, it will be much easier for the launch of deep-space probing devices from these sites than on the earth surface. With respect to meteorological observation stations to be built on the moon, they will be ideal instruments or tools for observing the outer space and monitoring activities above the earth. Furthermore, once they spot aerolite or comets moving in a direction toward the earth, ensuing measures can taken timely to shatter or smash them and let them change the directions of their movement, so that their role of protecting the humankind will be brought into play.

Days are not far off for Chinese lunanauts to land on the moon

China can be said to have created ample, essential conditions for the moon probing, Beijing Youth daily quoted Ouyang Ziyuang as saying. Its first moon probing is mainly an all-round, wholly and comprehensive remote probing with regard to the moon's resources, energy and environment.

To date, added Ouyang Ziyuan, China-made rockets are fully capable of launching lunar probes onto the moon, China has met the requirements in the manufacture of satellites and its launch pads in strict compliance with the criteria set for the launch of moon probes. On top of all these, the country has a big contingent of ace scientific and technological personnel, who are advanced and competent in designing the orbit and flight vehicles, and imbued with most sophisticated electronic information.

Sooner or latter, China's gorgeous five-star red flag will tower on the moon, and days are not distant for the dream of the Chinese people to come true.

By People's Daily Online


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