Why China is winning in space
The space race didn’t end when Neil Armstrong planted an American flag on the moon, said Namrata Goswami. If anything, it’s only getting started—and China may be moving into the lead. On Jan. 2, it became the first country to land a robotic rover on the moon’s far side, “the first step” in its strategy to become “the leading space power by 2045.” China’s plans for industrializing the moon could make it Earth’s “dominant power” in the 21st century. China seeks to establish an “industrial and logistical base” on the moon allowing it to mine a huge trove of titanium, platinum, and other precious metals, and to launch missions deeper into space, including to Mars. Space travel is currently limited “by the unavailability of in-orbit rocket fuel,” which requires water. The lunar poles likely contain “hundreds of millions of tons” of water, and China plans on sending “robotic prospectors” there by 2030. Fifty years ago, the race to the moon was a symbolic contest between democracy and communism. Today, the U.S. has largely retreated from space, with no specific national goals and very limited funding. With its “well-coordinated, disciplined, technocratic system,” China is well positioned to win the next space race.