With its Chang’e 4 landing, China has eclipsed US and Russian achievements. Expect them to take fresh interest in the moon
China’s achievement in landing a spacecraft on the far side of the moon, announced by Beijing’s state media this morning, has ramifications that go far beyond the simple statement of this being a “first” for mankind. It puts China on the map of international space exploration on a par with the existing space powers of the United States and Russia – the European Union to a lesser extent – but also adds a new dimension. It is the first time a landing has been attempted on the far side of the moon, with the particular communications challenges this entails, and it has been a success.
The first response from the US space agency, Nasa, was generous, as scientists to scientists: what China had managed was a “first for humanity and an impressive accomplishment”. The response in political and military quarters in Washington, as in Moscow, however, is likely to reflect trepidation. There is now a serious newcomer to be considered.