Five decades ago, Apollo 11 astronauts made history by being the first humans to walk on the Moon. The effort to achieve this was unimaginable, and the United States were constantly pushed to try their best to win the space race by the Soviet Union, who were the first to successfully send a man in space and return safely.
Even though China was a rising power back then, they had no active satellites in orbit at the time of America’s first Moon landing. China took its time and launched their first manned mission to space in 2003.
Recently, China’s technology evolved a lot and the country itself has gotten richer and more powerful. Thanks to this, their space program was significantly boosted: they managed to develop space labs and sent satellites into orbit. One of their greatest achievements to date is the fact that they are the first to send an automated rover to the dark side of the Moon.
Why so late to the game?
Modern China took a lot of time and sacrifice to be built, and while American society had a solid base and unchanged politics for centuries, the Chinese had to build everything they now have from scratch in a shorter period of time than their western “space rivals”.
The reason behind China’s advance in space tech is quite simple: their demographics. It’s natural that a country made out of more than a billion people has a greater number of engineers and scientists than a country with four times lower population.
When it all began
The idea for a Chinese space program was publicly expressed firstly back in 1950, by Mao Zedong, who is considered to be the founder of modern China. He believed that China should launch satellites into space too.
The Dongfanghong-1 was China’s first successfully launched satellite. Its making process took just a tad over 10 years and culminated on April 24, 1970, when the Cultural Revolution was at its peak.
After the economic reforms of the 1980s, the Chinese space program steadily progressed until the launch of their first manned mission.
They didn’t stop researching and developing: after sending a shocking number of six crews into space and launching two space laboratories into the orbit of our planet, it seems like they really want to go big. China was the third country to put humans on the Moon in 2013 with their Yutu 1 spacecraft. This year, Yutu 2 landed on the dark side of the Moon, an event that was acclaimed by NASA.
The Moon is the first step
The intentions of China’s space program are clear: They want to be the best space explorers. It’s official that the Chinese government plans to launch a probe to Mars in 2020, and by 2022 they plan to launch a space station which will never be decommissioned. A manned mission to Mars is in schedule, too.
Looking back to the plans from 10 years ago of the asian space agency, it seems like they achieved most of their goals, so we know they are in the race to win.
The Chinese space program is advancing faster than ever thanks to private space agencies like OneSpace. MaoChao, president of OneSpace says that people of China are enthusiastic about aerospace.
There is an approximate 10 to 15 years gap in technology between the United States’ space program and China’s. Looking back at how quick the Chinese space program evolved, it’s most likely that the gap will only get narrower with time. Some estimate that in the future, China will be the leader in matter of space tech.
The rivalry between the space programs of China and the United States sparks a bit of a flashback to the cold war, when Moscow and Washington were racing to put man on the Moon.
Benjamin Diaz started working for Debate Report in 2017. Ben grew up in a small town in northern Ontario. He studied chemistry in college, graduated, and married his wife a year later. Benhas been a proud Torontonian for the past 10 years. He covers politics and the economy. Previously he wrote for CTV News and the Huffington Post Canada.