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Space Science

China to Land on Moon Around 2017 293

Posted by Zonk
from the we're-whalers-on-the-moon-we-carry-a-harpoon dept.
smooth wombat writes "China has announced that it plans to land on the moon around the year 2017. They also plan to set up a moon-based astronomical telescope, measure the thickness of the moon's soil as well as the amount of helium-3 on the moon. Helium-3 is regarded by some researchers as the perfect non-polluting fuel source. China's first lunar orbiter could blast off as early as 2007, coinciding with its third manned space trip in which possibly three men would orbit Earth in Shenzhou VII and conduct a space walk."
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China to Land on Moon Around 2017

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  • by ackthpt (218170) *

    "China has announced that it plans to land on the moon around the year 2017. ... China's first lunar orbiter could blast off as early as 2007..."

    10 years to landon the moon?!?!? How many cows do they have tied up to the booster housing?

    I could see 3 to 5 years, but this isn't exactly new rocket science [bursarvixen.com], is it? Is there some matter of the Russians and Americans not sharing with them, or are the Chinese just so proud they want to do it all themselves?

    The United States unveiled a $104 billion plan in

    • by IdleTime (561841) on Friday November 04, 2005 @06:49PM (#13954498) Journal
      US knows how to do it with 1960's technology, making the moon viable as a platform for other activities, requires almost repeating the Apollo program all over again. Why? Because all moon activity was stopped in 1972 when the last 2 Apollo flights were scrapped.

      Plus maybe the most imporant factor: money. I guess China needs 10 year to spread the cost. Or would you rather pay for it? (And here I mean you, as in US citizens) USA owns China a LOT of money, i.e. China sits on wast dollar reserves. and can easily drive the value of dollar down the drain and/or raise the US interest rate a few points. Result of the almost 8 trillion dollar deficit USA has.
      • US knows how to do it with 1960's technology, making the moon viable as a platform for other activities, requires almost repeating the Apollo program all over again. Why? Because all moon activity was stopped in 1972 when the last 2 Apollo flights were scrapped.

        Some parts will scarcely change, while others which may take advantage of advances in materials and computers shouldn't lag much as we've still got active launch programs for shuttles and satellites. It's not like the people who did it all suddenl

        • by Trigun (685027) <evil@NOSpAm.evilempire.ath.cx> on Friday November 04, 2005 @07:59PM (#13954985)
          They could just stand on each other's shoulders like they did in the kung fu movies.
        • You've obviously mistaken China for a poor country
           
          Not quite but it's the next best (?) thing. China is a country full of poor people. These space missions are rah-rah points for the leadership to show how great the country is on the world scene so the sustinence farmers making do on $800/year will feel as if their sacrifices are not in vain.
          • Not quite but it's the next best (?) thing. China is a country full of poor people. These space missions are rah-rah points for the leadership to show how great the country is on the world scene so the sustinence farmers making do on $800/year will feel as if their sacrifices are not in vain.

            China had 3 billionaires in 2004, this year they've got 10.

            Adjusting income for cost of living, there's plenty poor people in the USA.

      • by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Friday November 04, 2005 @07:04PM (#13954608) Journal
        "[...] China sits on wast dollar reserves [...]"
         
        ...which they need in order to pay for their nuclear wessels [imdb.com].

        (I'm sorry. I couldn't resist.)
      • by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday November 04, 2005 @07:45PM (#13954894) Homepage Journal
        "sits on wast dollar reserves. and can easily drive the value of dollar down the drain and/or raise the US interest rate a few points."
        You see that is the funny thing. If China drove down the value of the dollar then cheap stuff from china wouldn't be cheap! The less reason for jobs to be out sourced and production would shift back to the US. China can not afford to devalue the dollar or have it's currency go up. The last thing they want is to become a consumer economy instead of an exporting one. What you think would hurt the US would actually in the long run help it.
      • China sits on wast dollar reserves. and can easily drive the value of dollar down the drain and/or raise the US interest rate a few points. Result of the almost 8 trillion dollar deficit USA has.

        Why would they ever do that? If someone owed you $1000, would you like the money they owe you to be worth something or would you rather have them repay you in funds that are worthless to you?

    • by Doug Coulter (754128) on Friday November 04, 2005 @07:07PM (#13954635) Homepage
      And, NASA was mostly all engineers -- good ones. Now it's mostly PhDs. This is a big difference when it comes to actually accomplishing something. An engineer solves several problems a week, and writes reports about them -- all in the same week. A PhD has solved one problem, took a few years, then took another few years to write the report. And oh yeah, his solution doesn't have to work outside the lab. As a result of working with ex-NASA employees (the good engineers who got chased out by the academic snobbery) I found the corporate culture to be pretty sick in recent (some years ago) days. Gosh, this IS rocket science, and some of it is dangerous (work out how many horsepower hours it takes to put a car into orbit, with 100% efficiency -- it's one heck of a bomb those guys ride), but they are too timid to admit that surely some folks will die playing with it. It seems China has a more healthy outlook here, and might go somewhere with it. Of course, if the academics weren't eating every last dime of the appropriations to "study stuff that can't be checked or proved", there might be money to get the job done, as there was last time. It's profitable to remember that these super smart academics missed Mars by failing to know the difference between metric and English units. Of course they are scared to attempt something most perceive as "simple". They'll want to study it for the rest of their careers and pass the problem to the next guys.
      • by rolfwind (528248) on Friday November 04, 2005 @10:13PM (#13955613)
        It's profitable to remember that these super smart academics missed Mars by failing to know the difference between metric and English units.


        Actually, Lockheed Martin Engineering's team used the English system while Nasa was expecting Metric:
        http://www.cnn.com/TECH/space/9909/30/mars.metric. 02/ [cnn.com]

        Besides standard being an idiotic system and that even England switch away from it's own system in measuring many things, most people learn in 6th grade science class to use Metric dealing with science.

        It seems engineers in Lockheed dropped the ball, not the Ivory Tower academics at Nasa.
        • In the real world, a lot of engineering gets done in standard, particularly in the US. The reason? If I walk to the hardware store, they are gonna sell me a 2"x4" piece of wood, not 40mm X 90mm. The same is true for metal, screws, bolts, even the specifications for things like motors and sensors. When you work in a CAD program all day its easy to do all metric but when you want to actually build things (in the US) it is much easier to use standard. I personally prefer to work in standard, the conversion
          • In the real world, a lot of engineering gets done in standard, particularly in the US. The reason? If I walk to the hardware store, they are gonna sell me a 2"x4" piece of wood, not 40mm X 90mm.

            Actually, a "green" American 2 x 4 is 40 x 90 mm. Dried they end up a little smaller. Measure one some time if you don't believe me.

          • by pnewhook (788591) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @07:41AM (#13957056)
            In the real world, a lot of engineering gets done in standard, particularly in the US. The reason? If I walk to the hardware store, they are gonna sell me a 2"x4" piece of wood, not 40mm X 90mm. The same is true for metal, screws, bolts, even the specifications for things like motors and sensors.
            Well I'm an engineer in the real would and pretty much everything is done in metric. Look at your car sometime. It doesn't matter if it is an American car or not, every bolt in there is a metric bolt. Cylinder heads are measured in mm. Volume in cc's. The only time I have to use imperial is when dealing with a small machine shop that hasn't updated their equipment yet. In construction even a 2x4 isn't 2" x 4". It's a historical naming convention.
      • Your account of Nasa being all air and no space doesn't really seem to fit to well with the pretty stellar track record they have enjoyed, not just with the landers of course but also with the Cassini probe.

        If the PHd's don't know how to get things done, someone at NASA sure does.
    • How many cows do they have tied up to the booster housing?.....Time to chuck the abacus and get some computers in those hands.
      The sad thing is, such ignorance and nearly racist stereotyping will probably attract some 'insightful' mod points.
    • Travelling to the moon ain't like dusting crops, boy! Without precise calculations they could fly right through a star or bounce too close to a supernova, and that would end their trip real quick, wouldn't it!
  • by Krach42 (227798) on Friday November 04, 2005 @06:47PM (#13954486) Homepage Journal
    But since it's a fermion, it can't become a Bose-Einstein Condensate.

    Sorry... too much Wikipedia :(
    • by Rei (128717) on Friday November 04, 2005 @07:08PM (#13954637) Homepage
      Helium-3 is really just an excuse. We can make all the helium-3 we want here on earth for much cheaper than it would ever be from the moon.

      Helium-3 is a decay product of tritium (which has a reasonable half-life). Tritium can be produced by neutron bombardment of lithium targets. That's what it takes to make the stuff here on Earth

      What about on the moon? Its crust is only 20 ppm helium. That's just helium, though - He3 is 10 ppb. That's a tiny, tiny amount of He3. Given that mining, refining, and shipping costs in extraterrestrial environments are going to be preposterously high for the near future, realistic recovery is just right out.

      What about its applications? First off, first-gen nuclear reactors aren't going to be able to burn He3. You'd have to scale up something like ITER far beyond its already gargantuan size to think about getting that sort of confinement. Some potential reactors, such as inertial electrostatic fusion or focus fusion, should be able to scale to generate power from He3 (if they were able to pass break-even - a big if). Yet, such reactors could be similarly scaled to use B11+p fusion, which is a much better proposition than He3 fusion.

      So, I don't hold much credence for He3 fusion, and even less for getting it from the moon.
      • Well, the point is that the fuel is already there, so you can use it to power your moon base.

        However, don't get be started about using this self-powered moonbase as a springboard to Mars and beyond.
  • Not He-3 again! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rorschach1 (174480) on Friday November 04, 2005 @06:51PM (#13954514) Homepage
    Frankly, I think this is a really stupid argument for lunar exploration. Yeah, it might be a good fuel - IF we had fusion reactors that could use it! It's not like bringing back a truckload of this stuff is going to instantly solve our energy problems.

    Exactly how much better than the usual DT mix would this stuff have to be to make it worth the expense of getting it and bringing it back?

    • Re:Not He-3 again! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Krach42 (227798) on Friday November 04, 2005 @06:57PM (#13954554) Homepage Journal
      I think they're mostly going there to see how much there is there, not to start trucking it back.

      First you have to know how abundantly you can get a fuel before you start using all of it. It'd be stupid to work on a fusion reactor that burns He-3 when it would just run out of fuel when we stopped being able to get ahold of the stuff...

      you know... like coal, and gasoline.
      • Re:Not He-3 again! (Score:3, Interesting)

        by QuantumG (50515)
        Gathering He3 from the gas giants in our solar system would be a lot more lucrative. The Moon just happens to be closer. But frankly, there's a heck of a lot more resources on the Moon than He3. Almost all the platinium group metals mined on earth come from meteor impact sites. It costs a lot to mine these metals on earth as erosion has washed most of the meteor away and the only ores left are the ones that fused with earth rocks. On the Moon there's no such erosion, so densities of platinium group met
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 04, 2005 @06:52PM (#13954523)
    Wait until they arrive and find out it's just a Hollywood set.
  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Friday November 04, 2005 @06:53PM (#13954532)
    They're taking the long view of becoming a super power.

    And leaving their enemies radiation free.
    • by Karma_fucker_sucker (898393) on Friday November 04, 2005 @06:59PM (#13954571)
      They're taking the long view of becoming a super power.

      At first I was trying to get the joke. Then I realized, it's an incredibly brilliant insightful remark - joking or not. The Chinese have a much longer view than we Westerners. They are on their way to becoming a Superpower and they know it. What I'm concerned about is this and subsequent administration's (US) take on this. Hopefully this may mean a new interest in space exploration and NASA?

      If so: Whoo hooo!

      • What I'm concerned about is this and subsequent administration's (US) take on this. Hopefully this may mean a new interest in space exploration and NASA?

        If our government takes this seriously, then yes, I expect you'll see a butt-load of new funding heading NASA's way. If there's anything the US government can't stand, it's the idea that any other country can trump us in any way. At least in this case, there's a constructive end to it.
      • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Friday November 04, 2005 @07:09PM (#13954645)
        We will operate under the same belief that served us well against the Soviet Union. We will build so many nukes and aim them at China that we will be able to destroy their entire country if they should ever attack us.

        The problem is that, this time, we'll be playing the part of the Soviet Union and go bankrupt trying to support an Earth-bound force when they can drop rocks on us all night. All of our satelites will be useless. All of our production facilities will be useless. But we'll still spend money on them.
        • Actually, we can build and loft transorbital weapons carrying vehicles at a rate that is truly staggering compared to China. Of couse, so could Japan for that matter. Ours though would carry some very well designed and very specialized nukes that would make any lunar base a thing of the past in short order. China can't militarize the moon. We could.

          Never mind that doing so would be insane given the nearly quarter million mile distance away. An orbital vehicle with tungsten rods deorbited by rocket would be
        • Actually al-quada seems to be doing that very well. They simply make some threats and the US spends tons of money trying to secure things. Whether it's the superbowl or the new years at times square all big events now cost several times more to secure then before. I don't see it ever ending either do you?
      • The Chinese...are on their way to becoming a Superpower....

        Wait a minute....didn't the Chinese start out as a superpower, say about 800 years ago or so? I'm always hearing that the Chinese were civilized and inventing paper and fire and logic and stuff when my ancestors were grunting around a campfire eating raw antelope with their fingers.
        • by tftp (111690) on Friday November 04, 2005 @10:50PM (#13955777) Homepage
          China is the largest regional power; it was such for thousands of years. All this is well documented. However it was never a global power (=superpower); Emperors just minded their own business and practiced calligraphy. Now is the time to change that. A base on the Moon, armed or not, will be a very strong statement, and China has resources to do that. USA does not have money (all it has is a huge debt to, for example, China...) So USA can compete only if China allows it, in form of investing into more green pieces of paper.
      • Many believe the "long view" isn't very effective. There is the view that reality has so many layers of complexity, and that the further in the future you plan the orders of magnitude more complex calculating the posibilites are, that planning for the future beyond a certain threshold has diminishing returns. We have neither the information we need, nor the computing power to process that information, to really predict and plan for the future beyond a certain point.

        Witness the highly controlled and long ter
      • He wrote about the Chinese being the first to one of Jupiter's moons in a short story that I think was the inspiration for 2001: A Space Odyssey. I'm not sure why Clarke saw the Chinese as being trailblazers into space from way back in the 50s but he did.
    • They're taking the long view of becoming a super power. And leaving their enemies radiation free.
      First country to Alpha Centari wins!!!!! (Someone had to say it)
  • by technoextreme (885694) on Friday November 04, 2005 @07:03PM (#13954600)
    Let's just mine the moon of it's natural resources. It won't affect the earth in any way or will it... If we take off any sizable chuck of the moon it will affect the tides.
  • "Helium-3 is regarded by some researchers as the perfect non-polluting fuel source."

    We've had this discussion before. It takes MASSIVE amounts of raw material to harvest Helium-3, so much so that we're effectvely talking about strip-mining the moon. Me thinks that a LOT of people are going to be opposed to turning the face of the moon into one huge resource operation. Of course, you could try the darkside and mess it up to your heart's content, but that'll create huge logistics problems beyond just strip mi
    • Yeah! We wouldn't want to scar it's face with craters or anything.
      Look, I'm greener than most but unless there's life on luna, I have
      no problem mining it for He3. Of course, lunar based PV would be a
      better power system.
    • Yes, it takes massive amounts of raw materials to get Helium-3. Luckily we don't actually need much Helium-3 (in theory). The overall mining operations will be small compared to a great number of Earth based mining operations. Even on the side facing Earth...you wouldn't be able to see mine pits from Earth.
  • by Chocolate Teapot (639869) * on Friday November 04, 2005 @07:07PM (#13954631) Journal
    ...that they can see the Great Firewall from space.
  • by carsamba (826051) on Friday November 04, 2005 @07:07PM (#13954634) Homepage
    Since the days of US vs CCCP space race has passed and nobody seems to be interested in our very convenient stepping stone for some real exploration. We have become so much accustomed to satisfied with the warp drives and photon sails and whatever in the space opera shows we like so much, many people (perhaps excluding most /.ers) are overlooking the fact they are waiting to be invented and implemented. Since the Soviet Union is no more, the battlefield has shifted somewhere else, space exploration has served its temporary political purpose now the russkies are defeated (though it was very useful for technological advances as a side effect). We are living the days of land and resource grab (WMD anyone?), when nobody wishes to look ahead.
    China has been a world power for -let me see- all known history, and is chinese first and anything else a distant second. They are a pragmatic people, move with slow but sure steps. I certainly hope this move of theirs will have more real tangible benefit to humankind, and not just for political bravado.
    • I really think this century will be to China what the 1800s were to the United States. Have your children learn Chinese.
      • I don't think China will be that big of an influence, but it will be interesting to see what the competition to bring people into space will have. I wouldn't count out countries like Brazil or India as well, and both have the beginnings of national space programs.

        Nations I see having a major impact on space development would include:
        • USA
        • Russia
          (both obvious beyond doubt)
        • European Union (if they get their act together with the ESA)
        • China
        • Japan
        • India
        • Pakistan
        • Brazil
        • Iran
        • Israel
        • Australia (likely in joint endavor with N
    • by mikapc (664262) on Friday November 04, 2005 @08:50PM (#13955237)
      China has not been a world power for all known history and you only need to look at the 19th and early 20th century to see they were dominated by Europeans states like the UK. Furthermore the point should be made that the China nation that existed 2000 years ago is different enough from the modern state we call China, that they should be regarded as separate entities. The same could be said for other nations that claim a western civilization heritage with the ancient greeks. While it's true Britain and the United states existence has been strongly influenced by the ancient hellenistic greeks there certainly are plenty of differences including time, place, other customs that clearly differentiate them from one another. All I'm saying in a nutshell is that the modern, industrialized world we live today is so different then that of the ancient or medieval world, that the modern Chinese have more in common with modern Europeans and Americans, then they do with their 2000 year old ancestors. Also whatever you want to say about China's greatness, the fact of the matter is the Europeans were the ones who eventually brought about the industrial revolution and the modern world we live in today. Who knows, it's quite possible China may take the lead in 21st century in furthering the progress of civilization another step but only after it has embraced the modern world that western civilization has created (Which it is doing by the way, including it's current capitalistic reforms). The fact is all civilizations borrow and steal great ideas from one another and China is no exception. So get rid of your foolish nationalistic pride that everything that is good was derived from Chinese civilization. The world is becoming more globalized and internationl to the point where it's often not possible to associate a technological achievement with a country.
    • They are a pragmatic people, move with slow but sure steps.

      Oh yes, like "The Great Leap Forward"... What a slow, but sure, step that was for China...

  • Hmmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by sundancekid503 (927309) on Friday November 04, 2005 @07:13PM (#13954681)
    I bought many of acres of moon land through the "Lunar Registry". I assume that China will check with me before picking a landing spot? I don't want any of my prime real estate damaged by their rockets.

    I didn't pay $32/acre just to let anyone use it. That would be stupid!
    • Wait until they build the base, then let them know you ow the land - your moonland is going to be worth quite a bit more than $32/acre once someone puts the sewer lines in for you! What are they going to do, tear all the plumbing out and start going outside?
  • So.. (Score:2, Funny)

    by Omnieiunium (872399)
    NASA is out-sourcing as well?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 04, 2005 @07:25PM (#13954752)
    China - 2017
    USA - 2018

    not of course counting: Hollywood - 1969
  • Vapor hardware (Score:4, Interesting)

    by amightywind (691887) on Friday November 04, 2005 @07:28PM (#13954773) Journal

    It notice that is 1 year before the first planned landing for NASA's new lunar lander. For China to land on the moon by 2017 Apollo style they would have to have at least a 100 ton class booster and a huge, visible effort. The planned Long March 5 booster is only 25 ton class (like Arianne V or Atlas V). Development isn't even approaved yet and it will take 7 years to develop. I doubt if the Russians will be helping them. If you ask me I'd say the Chinese spokesman was smoking crack.

    • They only need a 100 tonne rocket if they do the single shot the way that we did. They will probably elect to use a vehicle that is launched into space for the sole purpose of serving as a transport between the moon and earth. They will also send a small space station to orbit the moon. And finally develop a small craft to go between the station to the surface. It is very feasible to launch a large number of small crafts this way. In fact, cheaper in some ways (better use of the facility; if you lose a craf

      • And finally develop a small craft to go between the station to the surface. It is very feasible to launch a large number of small crafts this way.

        It is not at all feasible. Each craft would have meet basic mission requirements and be autonomous and storable in orbit or lunar orbit for months. A tall order for a country that has never docked spacecraft or developed high energy stages.. Then it would all have to come together perfectly at the time of the mission. Not likely.

        if you lose a craft, you do

        • Re:Vapor hardware (Score:3, Insightful)

          by R3d M3rcury (871886)
          "It is not at all feasible. Each craft would have meet basic mission requirements and be autonomous and storable in orbit or lunar orbit for months. A tall order for a country that has never docked spacecraft or developed high energy stages.. Then it would all have to come together perfectly at the time of the mission. Not likely."

          You could have said the same about the United States when Kennedy said we would land a man on the moon before the end of the decade back in 1961. We had a nine year deadline (wel
          • Re:Vapor hardware (Score:3, Interesting)

            by amightywind (691887)

            When Kennedy announced the Apollo program he was prepared to develop an enormous rocket (Saturn V) at the outset. The Chinese are clearly taking half measures. Even if the Lander mass was reduced by half it would still take a rocket 4 times as large as the one they are planning to land it on the moon. Nothing in the Shenzhou design suggests that kind of sophistication. Believe Chinese propaganda if you insist, but please don't pretend you are making any sense.

        • ...meet basic mission requirements and be autonomous and storable in orbit...

          Go back and read the specs of their orbital modules again. This is exactly what they have designed - and one is orbiting us right now.
    • Re:Vapor hardware (Score:3, Informative)

      by R3d M3rcury (871886)
      That's assuming they do it the same way that NASA did--namely, one big rocket to heft everything up into orbit.

      Suppose, instead, that they lift the rocket engine and fuel into orbit on one Long March. Then send the crew up in another Long March with the lander, etc. The crew gets into orbit, docks with the rocket engine, fires the engine and heads to the moon.

      NASA didn't do it that way the first time around, though I believe they're going to do it that way this time around.
    • I doubt if the Russians will be helping them.
      Why not? Chinese have the money, and are willing to pay. Plus the general feeling in Russia these days is that they are "strategic partners".
      • I think you miss just how much in proportion to the overall economy that the Apollo Project cost the USA. Of course that was with 1960's technology and some concern that it could be done at all, but still it was one of the most expensive single research programs since the Manhattan Project. Certainly justified in the game Civilization as a "Great Wonder" in terms of raw resources needed to get it accomplished.

        At one point, even during the height of the Vietnam War, NASA had close to 15% of the Federal Bud
        • I think you miss just how much in proportion to the overall economy that the Apollo Project cost the USA. Of course that was with 1960's technology and some concern that it could be done at all, but still it was one of the most expensive single research programs since the Manhattan Project.

          One notable difference the Soviet/Russian space programme had compared to NASA was the significantly lesser cost of most (all?) missions of comparable size. It is still a lot, of course; but I think not quite as much a

  • by natedog44 (928601) on Friday November 04, 2005 @07:39PM (#13954852)
    They don't even know how to drive a car, and they're going to land on the moon? Good Luck... Hopefully they don't dent up the ISS while en route =P
  • He-3 Not Feasible (Score:4, Informative)

    by LordMyren (15499) on Friday November 04, 2005 @07:48PM (#13954911) Homepage
  • I'm curious as to where the He is being stored on the moon. He is inert, so it's not bound in molecules. It's also really light, so it escapes the earth's gravitational pull (meaning it'll fly away even quicker from the moon). Are there a lot of radioactive materials undergoing beta decay leaving pockets of He?
  • Last year it was India and China as the 2 largest competitors in the space race. Now India seems to have dropped out. Both countries have over a billion people. Both have the highest educated population in the world.

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