The Chinese, in the past few years, have made several breakthrough advancements in space missions. With its Changi 4 landing on the far side of the moon and the country planning to launch three more lunar missions, it is now gearing up to go build the first ever moon base by the year 2020.
China’s Moon Base
China is the first country that is rigorously planning to build a moon base and has already begun to work towards it by sending satellites. Its main objective is to ensure that the conditions on the moon are favourable enough for humans to settle in the future. For this, the country, with the number of satellites that it has and is going to set up on the moon, trying to develop bioregenerative support systems. It also mainly aims to be the first country ever to build a Chinese research base on the moon.
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Building a lunar base requires considerable amount of accurate calculations based on the weather conditions, sunlight, soil conditions and many other factors. The moon base is going to be set up in the south pole. Here are the efforts in terms of missions that China has taken:
Change 4: This January, the China National Space Administration successfully landed the unmanned Chang’e-4 on the far side of the moon. With Change 4, China has already showcased its ability to grow plants on the lunar surface, since the seeds taken to the Moon in the mission have now reportedly sprouted. This is the first time plants have been grown on the Moon.
Change 5: By the end of 2019, the country will send an unmanned lunar lander called Change 5, the job of which would be to collect the samples on the surface. By analysing the composition of the lunar far side, they could gain valuable information about the soil at the location. The Moon is already thought to contain significant amounts of helium-3, which is rare on Earth.
Change 6: Change 6 will bring samples back from the lunar south pole.
Change 7: Change 7 will conduct surveys of the south polar region, including an assessment of terrain, physical composition and the space environment.
Change 8: The last one in the series, Change 8 will test key technologies for building a research station on the moon. The mission will be sent to very some important and related technologies which is expected to do some preliminary exploration for a joint moon research base, shared by multiple countries in the future.
Meanwhile, China has also placed its astronauts aboard two temporary space stations of Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2. The first part of that permanent station is expected tol reach orbit aboard the country’s new Long March-5B rocket in the first half of 2020. This will not be associated with the International Space Station (ISS), which is reaching the end of its operational lifetime.
Apart from this, China is on its mission to develop the capability to 3D print both inside and outside of the lunar base. 3D printing is much more difficult than on Earth and is a real challenge. Though the basic design of a 3D printer stays the same, printing in zero gravity environment of the Moon requires special considerations. But the material itself has to be sticky to hold the liquid layers without gravity.
Importance Of The Location
The lunar south pole has always been an area of special interest mainly because of two reasons:
(1) It is a shadowed region. The cratoers in this region are unique because sunlight does not reach here, Such craters are cold traps that contain a fossil record of the early Solar System.
(2) On top of being a shadowed region, the south pole has the occurrence of water ice needed for crewed operations.
What Will This Bring Us?
China is currently leading in the world in terms of lunar missions. It has taken the first step by examining the soil of the lunar surface. This is necessary for building an underground habitat and supporting infrastructure that will shield the base from the harsh surface conditionWith one of its missions as a part of the moon base already landing on moon, it is clear that the country is very serious about finding out possibilities to setting up a habitat on the home satellite.
Whether China will be successful in setting up a habitat on Moon or not is still a question, but it with all its upcoming missions, it is sure going to make a lot of developments for space exploration.