On Anniversary of the First Moon Walk, it is the Chinese who Plan another

Today is the anniversary of the first moon walk, in 1969.

Walter Cronkite anchors the first moon walk

Meanwhile, nowadays it is China that is aiming for a moon base. They have begun by manned near-space missions, most recently the Shenzhou-10, a 15-day space mission by three astronauts. Beijing’s further goal is a space station by 2020, as a step toward human beings returning to the moon.

14 Responses

  1. I hope they pull it off. But it’s important to remember that much of their hardware was essentially bought from the Russians who never made it to the moon. They have yet to design a lander or master many of the techniques needed to get there and back. Their experience in space so far broadly matches where the US was in 1966, though with far fewer launches under their belts – five compared to 15 for the US at that time. They have a long way to go.

  2. Mao’s China (unlike the USSR) chose to deny the reality of the Apollo Moon landings. I have never heard when the PRC party line expanded to include the lunar landings, but I suspect it was some time ago. In a little irony, the Chinese are now planning to use the Soviet technology developed in the 1960′s (and dropped after Apollo 11) to land there themselves on the Moon in the 2020′s.

  3. The Soviet Union landed a rocket on the Moon in 1959 and also landed on Mars in 1971 – well before any other nation did so.

    The Soviet Union’s and U.S. space programs would not have been possible without German WWII V-2 rocket technology.

    • “The Soviet Union’s and U.S. space programs would not have been possible without German WWII V-2 rocket technology.”

      In the case of the US space program, we have Wernher von Braun to thank. Wernher von Braun was in charge of developing the V-2 for Hitler during World War II, and he was a member of both the Nazi Party and the SS. After the war von Braun was brought to the US under the secret program “Operation Paperclip.” His expertise in rocketry was first applied to a US Army program and later to the US space program. One of history’s ironies.

    • Actually, the Soviet Union crashed a rocket into the moon in 1959 – a much less impressive achievement than actually landing one.

      Ditto the 1971 Mars mission. The lander crashed and was destroyed.

  4. As a participant in the Apollo Missions, I say, “Without
    a doubt, you don’t know what the hell you are typing about”.
    There were too many technical issues and people involved
    to “Fake It”, over.

  5. The Lunar Reconnaissance orbiter imaged all six Apollo landing sites, and was able to resolve not only the descent stages of the lunar modules from each mission, but also tracks from lunar rovers and the astronauts themselves. However, if you believe in such an elaborate and widespread conspiracy in the first place, then it is not a giant leap (pardon the pun) for you to believe the LRO images are faked as well. That really cuts to the heart of the issue though, because for those who are intent enough on believing something, there is no such thing as “irrefutable evidence” to the contrary. Instead of reviewing all the available information, you have formed a premise and you are attempting to find ambiguities in the data which can be exploited to support your claim. Implicit in your statement is a mistrust of every single individual who was intimately involved in the Apollo project, as well as every scientist in the present day who has studied images of Apollo landing sites taken by the LRO. Admittedly, agencies such as the NSA have given people a lot a reasons to be mistrustful of certain government agencies, however your comments on this issue both misplace that mistrust, and take it to an absurd extreme.

    I rarely comment on random blog posts on the internet, and perhaps my response is a bit of an overreaction considering that the belief in a staged moon landing is on the fringes, and is unlikely to gain traction in mainstream society. However, this issue troubles me, and not just because I am someone who has had a life-long appreciation for the scientific and engineering accomplishments of space programs throughout time and all over the world. Your view is an unfounded belief which masquerades as logical and scientifically rigorous point of view, and I see a great many parallels between your approach to this issue and the insidious way in which politicians (mostly American, and mostly Republican) go about denying climate change. Clearly our understanding of the earth’s climate is not complete, and as with any other scientific endeavor, it never will be. But in the same way that we know enough about fluid mechanics to make jumbo jets fly, and enough about semiconductors to make computer chips work, we know enough about climate science to say that changes in the earths climate caused by the burning of fossil will have a significant impact on our planet over the coming century. However, those in positions of power who deny climate change, continue to form their opinions based on subsets of available data which can be manipulated into refuting anthropogenic climate change. It’s hard to say whether they know in their hearts that this approach is not logically rigorous, but the basis of their opinions and manner in which they present their arguments is quite similar to the way in which people go about touting theories that the moon landing was a hoax.

    I went way off topic there. Long story short: the moon landings happened, deal with it.

  6. Just a point of clarification:
    My rather lengthy and indignant diatribe was in response to a comment which appears to have been removed.

  7. Ryan,
    I think it is good to have open discussions and an open mind on, at least, technical topics. Bringing AGW does not help, and saying doubters are “fringe” ignores that many of them are qualified, such as honchos in the Indian,space program or Eng’g Directors of big aerospace companies. I agree you overreact, I wonder why this issue brings out such fervor, it is almost like we are discussing faith. I do not rule out that manned landings took place, I just say it seems unlikely. I do not think you can be 100% sure they did.
    Juan, I think it is a bad idea to remove controversial comments. Informed Comment is a great blog offering much needed info and perspective, it does not adhere to conventional wisdom and is unafraid to contradict majorities, right?
    Cheers!

    • To doubt that the United States landed men on the moon on July 20, 1969 is definitely to be on the “fringe.” This idea that the moonlanding was a hoax has been around since, well, since men landed on the moon. One of the key components of the conspiracy theorists is that what we all thought were men landing on the moon actually took place and was filmed at an area with a lunar-like landscape near Flagstaff, Arizona. The conspiracy theorists who doubt the lunar-landing are suffering from (forgive the pun) lunacy.

      There is ample scientific evidence that the-lunar landing occurred. If it were a conspiracy by the US Government, then literally thousands of scientists, engineers, and others in the US space program at the time would have to have been privy to, and kept silent about, the conspiracy.

      The conspiracy theorists rejection of all evidence that the lunar-landing took place ranks up there with the Creationists “proof” that the earth is 6,000 years old; the rejection of evolution and natural selection; the conspiracy theorists who believe that the contrails (condensation trails) left by jetliners are really chemtrails (chemical trails) spreading disaster; and the flat-earthers (for whom there exists a Flat Earth Society).

      Thank goodness this know-nothing attitude remains on the fringe. Unfortunately, it still has a potentially destructive possibility, as there are those who argue that such nonsense should be given equal treatment with real science in classrooms and textbooks.

  8. I might point out that Apollo is still returning good science – the Apollo lunar samples are still being analyzed, and much of what we know about solar system cosmo-chemistry is either from Apollo, or from comparisons with Apollo samples. And, the 3 sets of corner-cube mirrors installed by the Astronauts are still used for Lunar Laser Ranging (LLR) data collection, letting us know the lunar orbit at the mm level. Ranging started _9 days_ after the Apollo 11 landing, and has continued ever since, basically on a nightly basis. Ranges were obtained from the Apollo 14 array _the day it was deployed_.

    In my mind, the existence of the LLR retroreflectors removes any doubt about the reality of the Lunar landings. These reflectors are available for anyone to use, and French, German, Soviet and Japanese teams (along with Americans) have all used them for ranging. Getting all these teams to cover something up would not be a conspiracy, but a fantasy.

  9. While this story is supposed to demonstrate something about American decline and China’s rise, I fail to see how China using 1960s technology to do something useless, while the United States continues to launch Mars rovers and space telescopes while holding a dominating position in the military and commercial satellite industry, makes that point.

    For the Chinese, going to the moon is a step forward in the development of their space program, and a symbol of advancement. For the US to do another moon landing would be a step back, a waste of money that could otherwise be spent on space operations that actually accomplish something.

    • Depends on what the Chinese intend to do with the Moon after their big photo op.

      One of the barriers to fusion energy is the high temperature needed to fuse deuterium and tritium. It would be easier if we used the isotope helium-3. But this no longer exists on Earth. It drifts around in outer space, and a considerable amount has settled on the surface of the Moon. Now if there was a way to extract a significant amount of helium-3 from lunar soil and return it safely to Earth for research purposes, that would accomplish something.

    • It’s a mistake to refer to the technology level of the Chinese programme as a black mark against them, or indicative of the level of tech they are capable of.

      If you were responsible for getting a significant space program off the ground in a country like China, you would soon realise that the entire infrastructure of engineering, innovation, supply-chain integration, training, and so on would need to be built and well-tested before you could even hope to launch a rocket. Obviously they’ve been doing this for some time now so most of those components are in place.

      Now they want to stretch themselves, and a manned moon landing is such a PR-rich exercise it simply can’t be allowed to fail. Anyone that understands the nature of risk management would want every part of the plan based on known and proven tech, and any area that required new tech would be highlighted as inherently riskier.

      The use of ‘ancient’ Soviet tech is a huge bonus in that context. It’s what *I* would do. In the process of getting that ancient rocket to the moon and back, there are still thousands of ways to extend and test their space program as a whole. When they come to launching their own all-new rocket program, they can rely on the tested systems from the Moon mission to reduce risk as much as possible.

      It would be suicidal to try and use a brand-new platform for this manned Moon landing, if there were proven platforms available. The USA had to invent much more of the tech they used for the 1969 landings, but at every stage known tech was used if it was at all possible.

      The Moon landing for the Chinese will be a powerful cultural touchstone for generations to come, and a failure would be an equally grave embarrassment. Using ‘ancient’ tech is perfectly in keeping with the importance of success.

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