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Moon China

How China Will Get To the Moon Before a Google Lunar XPrize Winner 173

Posted by samzenpus
from the third-is-better-than-last dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with this link about the advances in China's lunar program. "A $30 million Google-backed competition to land a spacecraft on the moon may be about to be scooped. China's Chang'e 3 probe successfully put itself into lunar orbit on Friday in preparation for an attempted touchdown around Dec. 14. China won't be winning the prize money, which is reserved for privately funded, previously enrolled teams, not government agencies."
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How China Will Get To the Moon Before a Google Lunar XPrize Winner

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  • by Boronx (228853)

    One giant leap for mankind.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 09, 2013 @08:31AM (#45638309)

      One giant leap for mankind.

      This.

      I live in America. I like its culture. I like its people. I'd like to see it propagate offworld. But if my tribe is no longer interested in taking the high ground, I'd rather see my species - be it 50, 500, or 5000 years from now - speaking some variation of Mandarin than not living offworld at all.

      My tribe's ancestors went there in peace for all mankind. Good luck, Chinese dudes.

      • by iamhassi (659463) on Monday December 09, 2013 @11:52AM (#45639947) Journal
        Considering the number of chinese that learn English in school compared to English speaking children that learn chinese, I have a feeling we will all be speaking a hybrid version of English and Chinese in hundreds of years. English isn't going anywhere, not when billions of chinese are all taught English from ages 4 thru 18.
        • by dgatwood (11270) on Monday December 09, 2013 @01:15PM (#45640823) Journal

          Considering the number of chinese that learn English in school compared to English speaking children that learn chinese, I have a feeling we will all be speaking a hybrid version of English and Chinese in hundreds of years. English isn't going anywhere, not when billions of chinese are all taught English from ages 4 thru 18.

          So what you're saying is that Firefly got it right?

      • by rubycodez (864176)

        I'm amused at the constant slashdot meme that the Chinese or Indians are somehow overtaking the US space program.

        the chinese space program is about four decades behind the US one. and the Indian one even further, about five decades. we're talking about ballistic capabilities, systems complexity but not computer control. when will they have a launch system that can put solar observing satellite inside the orbit of mercury (which takes more delta v than going to another star!), or a launch system that cou

        • by danlip (737336)

          the chinese space program is about four decades behind the US one.

          4 decades ago the US landed a man on the moon. They couldn't do that today - heck we couldn't even get a man into low earth orbit today. So being 4 decades behind the US space program doesn't sound like a bad thing.

          • 4 decades ago the US landed a man on the moon. They couldn't do that today - heck we couldn't even get a man into low earth orbit today. So being 4 decades behind the US space program doesn't sound like a bad thing.

            The US could put a man on the moon fairly easily, and soon.

            We just choose not to, because it's expensive, and as a nation we've judged that there's no point in going there for an afternoon of tourism. Especially considering our reduced tolerance for the risk of a blow'd up spacecraft and me

  • Well really.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "which is reserved for privately funded, previously enrolled teams, not government agencies"

    doesn't that make this article completely irrelevant?

    • by rioki (1328185)

      It does actually not. The summary does not mention this, but AFAIK the X-Prize has the clause "before any national space agency" (except NASA and the Russian obviously). If China succeeds they need to either renegotiate the prize or void it, since the original terms will make it obsolete.

      • Re:Well really.. (Score:5, Informative)

        by rioki (1328185) on Monday December 09, 2013 @03:34AM (#45637465) Homepage

        I stand corrected, the clause was already dropped:

        A recent update in the teams’ legal agreement with the X Prize Foundation removed a $5 million penalty if a government entity got to the surface of the moon first.

        • That was a pretty dumb clause... since pretty much any country on earth with a few billion on hand could build a rudimentary rover, pay Lockheed Martin a butt-load of money and have one there in a few months. Hell, give me a couple of billion and I'll get the pirate bays servers up there... that'd be hilarious.

          • by dAzED1 (33635)
            err...uhhh...well, ok, yeah - any gov with a "few billion on hand" (short list of govs these days) could, sure - except how does that make the clause dumb? The point was to encourage private enterprise to do it before that very thing happened. And yes, anyone could cut the time short by spending even more, but why would a gov do that? Also, sure - put the pirate bay servers up there. The servers themselves rarely if ever go down - the overwhelmingly vast blocking of traffic to/from piratebay is done v
      • by gl4ss (559668)

        in regards to a moon landing it's a stupid combo then.

        why did they pen the original rules as such in the first place?

      • That's good news, because the US landed there back in the 60's. And successfully returned.

        • That's good news, because the US landed there back in the 60's. And successfully returned.

          Well that's what they'll have you believe, sure :-)

          I am not a conspiracy nut myself, at least not regarding the moonlanding. Still, I immensely enjoyed this mockumentary, which had the generous support of the Kubrick estate and various high profile politicos (Kissinger, Rumsfeld, among others):

          Dark side of the moon [wikipedia.org].

        • The Russians sent a sample return mission in 1970. Luna 16.
    • by 91degrees (207121)
      Unless China's space budget is less than US$30 million (or at least not too much more), then yes!

      We proved getting a spaceship to the moon was possible in the 1960's. The prize is for doing so in a cost effective manner.
  • by erice (13380) on Monday December 09, 2013 @03:27AM (#45637423) Homepage

    If you are going to include government probes than China was itself scooped by the Soviet Union's Lunokhod_1 [wikipedia.org] rover more than 40 years ago.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I guess everybody is tired of these fake Hollywood landings.

  • Google is not letting go any terrestrial object!! .. LOL!!
  • I give up. Are the Chinese running KitKat or Key Lime Pie on Chang'e 3?
  • missing the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stenvar (2789879) on Monday December 09, 2013 @03:49AM (#45637517)

    The point of the X-Prize is to show that private space exploration is possible, i.e., that the costs have come down enough so that it makes sense for businesses to start engaging in space exploration, or that it has become cheap enough so that people can do it for fun.

    The ability of space exploration by tax-payer funded government entities doesn't need to be established, it was established half a century ago. Communist nations tend to be even better at doing such things in the short run because they can redirect money more easily to such projects even if they don't make sense.

    • Re:missing the point (Score:5, Interesting)

      by savuporo (658486) on Monday December 09, 2013 @04:22AM (#45637601)

      Hmm. Apparently capitalist governments are even more effective at sinking funds into projects like that, because its widely recognized that US beat the Soviets in the early space race.

      Of course, for some inexplicable reason US didnt respond to Soviet challenge by leveraging the power of free markets, private industry and entrepreneurial spirit. They decided to beat massive Soviet state run design bureaus backed by their military industry complex by establishing their own massive state run design bureau backed by their military industrial complex. They even bagged members of the same team of germans as their design leads !

      Funnily enough, Russians are now launching the lions share of commercial space payloads, whereas the recent SpaceX Falcon 9 first comsat launch was the first in years for US.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by stenvar (2789879)

        Hmm. Apparently capitalist governments are even more effective at sinking funds into projects like that

        Yes, because they end up having more money to spend.

        Of course, for some inexplicable reason US didnt respond to Soviet challenge by leveraging the power of free markets, private industry and entrepreneurial spirit.

        The US leveraged the power of "free markets, private industry and entrepreneurial spirit" by taxing it.

        Funnily enough, Russians are now launching the lions share of commercial space payloads, whe

        • by savuporo (658486)

          The Soviet union is, of course, still just living off resources created on the back of peasants and workers during the Soviet era.
          USSR doesnt exist anymore - but if you meant Russian space industry, then yes absolutely. And it has been crumbling for years.

          The moon landing may have been a good political stunt, but scientifically and economically, it was a huge waste of money.
          You'll get no argument on this one. Most of the manned spaceflight to date is still a huge waste of money.

          • by Dodgy G33za (1669772) on Monday December 09, 2013 @07:18AM (#45638093)

            Bloody bean counters. It was not a waste of money. Any more than climbing Everest, or the race to the South Pole, or finding the Higgs Boson.

            The space race inspired the current generation of rich people prepared to put funds into private space initiatives.

            We don't want a robot to land on mars. We want a human to tell us how it feels to stand on an alien planet and try to spot the Earth in the nights sky.

            You want to look at a waste of money? Look at how much Coca Cola spend to try to make you buy their flavour rather than the oppositions. Now that is a REAL waste.

            • by savuporo (658486)

              Any everest climber pays for it with his own money, or by his direct sponsors that support his cause. South Pole the same. Higgs Boson and LHC are scientific endeavours, greatly contributing to science and our understanding of the word.

              Apollo was "our germans are better than your germans" and "we can build a bigger ICBM than you" pissing contest - and effectively bankrupted further space development on both sides. As has been said elsewhere in this thread - Lunokhods and Luna landers, and Surveyors were muc

            • by couchslug (175151)

              "We don't want a robot to land on mars. We want a human to tell us how it feels to stand on an alien planet and try to spot the Earth in the nights sky."

              Of course as space is permanently hostile to unarmored humans we'll need robots to do nearly everything for us once we get there, so I'll not quibble about sending robots (which can be developed far more rapidly than meat passenger systems) in advance.

            • by stenvar (2789879)

              The space race inspired the current generation of rich people prepared to put funds into private space initiatives.

              There is no evidence that that was a good deal; private space exploration might well have started far earlier if the US government had gotten out earlier. I think the space shuttle was an utter disaster.

      • Re:missing the point (Score:5, Informative)

        by subreality (157447) on Monday December 09, 2013 @05:55AM (#45637833)

        its widely recognized that US beat the Soviets in the early space race

        By whom?

        First artificial satellite: Sputnik
        First human in space: Yuri Gagarin
        First human in orbit: Yuri Gagarin (He gets mentioned twice because he achieved this before the US managed even a suborbital flight)
        First lunar flyby: Luna 1
        First impact on the moon: Luna 2
        First spacewalk: Aleksei Leonov
        First soft landing on the moon: Luna 9

        The commitment to boots on the moon led to Gemini turning things around in the mid '60s, but before that the Soviets did quite well, especially with Earth-orbit tech.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Savage-Rabbit (308260)

        Hmm. Apparently capitalist governments are even more effective at sinking funds into projects like that, because its widely recognized that US beat the Soviets in the early space race.

        Dunno about that. IMHO the Soviets did every bit as much good pioneering work with the Lunokhod program and Mir as the US did with the entire Apollo program and the space shuttle program. Apollo was a spectacular propaganda Lunokhod represented a way of doing the same amount of scientific work the Apollo missions did with less risk and at a fraction of the price. Lunokhod set the pattern for the way space exploration is done today and Mir yielded a mountain of data on the problems of really long term missio

        • Re:missing the point (Score:4, Interesting)

          by khallow (566160) on Monday December 09, 2013 @07:23AM (#45638123)

          Lunokhod represented a way of doing the same amount of scientific work the Apollo missions did with less risk and at a fraction of the price.

          It didn't. The scientific output of Apollo was quite remarkable. And there's two simple reasons why. First, they had the best machines of the day, people (which incidentally are still the best machines of the day) gathering samples and running experiments on the surface.

          And second, they returned 380 kg of lunar material to be studied for the past few decades. Do you really think a 60s vintage lunar rover is going to get better data on lunar material on location than generations of Earth-based scientists do with a sample return?

          • Lunokhod represented a way of doing the same amount of scientific work the Apollo missions did with less risk and at a fraction of the price.

            It didn't. The scientific output of Apollo was quite remarkable. And there's two simple reasons why. First, they had the best machines of the day, people (which incidentally are still the best machines of the day) gathering samples and running experiments on the surface.

            And second, they returned 380 kg of lunar material to be studied for the past few decades. Do you really think a 60s vintage lunar rover is going to get better data on lunar material on location than generations of Earth-based scientists do with a sample return?

            No I don't but then that's not what I was trying to point out. I said the Soviets did a whole lot of invaluable pioneer work in the field of unmanned space probes and that Lunokhod pointed the way to the future. Or do you really think thtat the future of deep space exporation is in grandiose Apollo program like manned missions to remote corners of the solar system? What has been the focus of space exploration since Apollo? Wait... let me think... Oh yes it's been unmanned probes, even NASA acknowledges tha

          • Do you need human beings in order to bring back material for Earth-based scientists to analyze?

            • by khallow (566160)
              You don't. But they'll still the best tool for a lot of space activities both from capability and cost standpoints.
      • Of course, for some inexplicable reason US didnt respond to Soviet challenge by leveraging the power of free markets, private industry and entrepreneurial spirit. They decided to beat massive Soviet state run design bureaus backed by their military industry complex by establishing their own massive state run design bureau backed by their military industrial complex. They even bagged members of the same team of germans as their design leads !

        The US led private industry design and build the Apollo project. I don't know how detailed the specs were that private companies like Lockheed and Boeing were given for their parts of the program, for example. I did have a chance some years ago to talk to a guy who worked on the Apollo project for NASA and he was working there during the first moon landing. He told me an interesting story about the onboard computer that the LEM (lunar lander) used and mentioned that MIT was responsible for the programmin

  • China has caught up to cold war tech from 50 years ago! I'm much more impressed with the Indian satellite effort which just set off for Mars.
    • It's all very impressive that they could land something on the moon 50 years later, but let's see them do it without microprocessors, as the US did. Whenever I think about the 1960s' moon efforts, I'm amazed that it could be done at all with the computer technology that was available at the time.

  • That deep inside, I hope that the Chinese have a critical failure which either prevents them from completing the mission, or their lander is somehow destroyed on impact? It doesn't count if all you do is deposit litter does it?

    • Re:Is it wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

      by savuporo (658486) on Monday December 09, 2013 @04:44AM (#45637655)

      Yes its wrong. China has lots of scientist and engineers that have put their hard work into this - and they are doing something that nobody has done for decades, and they are doing it better, with more modern and even completely new instruments.

      Why would you want this to fail?

      • I largely agree, but the original objective was binary -- "round-trip completed intact" | "round-trip not completed intact" -- and since the US & USSR didn't fail partway through the trip, there isn't a whole lot of room for doing it "better." They might do it more cheaply, complete the round-trip faster, or succeed against the most overwhelming odds, but those are all different issues, IMHO.

    • by dbIII (701233)
      Yes definitely. Look at what is happening on Mars and just be happy that there are more players instead of a pissing contest that NASA would lose to anyone that isn't getting their budgets cut. With a bit of luck a Chinese success will inspire more funding to NASA and more things for US nationalists to cheer for.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm glad that someone is going to the moon. I never got to ride the Concorde either.

  • So... China's trip isn't comparable to what the private companies are doing. When a private chinese company sends something to the moon... then they're in the running. Till then... welcome to the party china... the punch bowl is over there.

    • I am looking forward to watching that runner sitting by the track with the stars and stripes watching the running in the red go running by. Closely followed by the one in the green orange and white.

      Space race Mk2. Bring it on.

  • Really?
    The US moon landing has been doubted for year despite: relatively open process, poor CG at the time, less knowledge of the moon's environment.
    China has: very closed access to any of its government activities, access to the best in CG and amongst the most powerful computers, modern knowledge of the moon's environment.
    In short: this self-aggrandizing goal is just TOO EASY TO FAKE. So they will.

    • by arcade (16638)

      Uhm. Easy to fake? So, how will they fake out the huge amount of telescopes that will be pointed at the moon when they approach? How do they fake the large amount of listening posts that will listen for the chinese signals from the moon?

      Not to mention, flybys by other nations, later, will look for the equipment. It would be kind of embarrassing when nobody can find it. ;)

  • A nation of 1.4 billion people, with a gdp of $8 trillion, the largest nation in the world, will manage to reach the moon before a couple of handfuls of mostly-private teams with budgets perhaps 1 MILLIONTH of theirs.

    Go China!

    • A nation of 1.4 billion people, with a gdp of $8 trillion, the largest nation in the world

      I assume you're labeling them "largest in the world" because of their population, since the US GDP is almost twice that high, and even Canada is physically larger...

  • China has slow, steady well financed program. Private contests may have some hope. the US program suffereing death by a thousand small cuts. They manage to get two Mars probes funded this decade, otu several planned. JPL-NASA is talking about turning off Opportunity soon because they cannot financially afford to operate multiple Mars Rover due to sequester cuts. Curiosity has more powerful instruments and has less explored its area.

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