Red Storm Rising is Thriller made by Tom Clancy; another book sales pitch? Now we are going to be ready for another Cold War, this time in Space.
On Dec. 1, China launched the Chang’e-3 lunar probe. It was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center using a Long March-3B rocket. It soft landed on the moon on Dec. 14 in preparation for exploring for natural resources and carrying out geological surveys. It’s only the third country to achieve a soft landing behind the Unites States and the former Soviet Union.
Once the Chang’e-3 landed on the moon it lowered a ramp and Yutu, which means Jade Rabbit, rolled into action. The Jade Rabbit moon rover is set to explore the Bay of Rainbows for the next three months.
The Chang’e-3 is the latest part of a Chinese space program that has been very busy of late. In 2007 they launched their Chang’e-1, a moon orbiter. In 2010 they launched the Chang’e-2, another moon orbiter. In June of this year they put three taikonauts in space and docked with an experimental space laboratory. Chang’e-4 is slated for 2017 and will possibly pave the way for the Chinese to put astronauts on the moon. Following that is a proposed large space station, possibly up and running by 2020. They are thinking big, with a future lunar base for taikonauts and even manned missions to Mars.
It’s a very impressive show of power, which is intended. It’s also an equally impressive show of technology. With the precision that the Chang’e-3 has shown in the last couple of weeks come questions of how the Chinese might use that technology in the future. NASA and other eyes will be focused on the Jade Rabbit as it explores the lunar landscape. To produce a vehicle that can withstand temperatures of minus 180 degrees and go to sleep and wake up on command from earth requires very sophisticated technology. The Jade Rabbit also has a thermal control system that can maintain the rover during the night which is extremely important considering one lunar night equals 14 days on earth.
If that is the kind of technology being developed today, imagine what it will be like in 10, 20, or even 30 years down the road. Apply that same technology to satellites, communications, missiles, anti-missile systems, and other space related technology. Picture how advanced all these systems will become. What China is accomplishing here is very impressive. The Chang’e-3 is much more than a moon landing, it’s showing the world that they should be taken seriously; they’re showing NASA and the world that a red storm is rising.
The Americans were last on the moon in 1972; will they return? With their attention firmly on Mars many believe they will not. The Russians are in a rebuilding phase which leaves questions regarding the future of their program. The Europeans want to put a lunar lander on the moon’s south pole in 2018. India launched a spacecraft to Mars this year and wants to put a man on the moon by 2020. Space is becoming quite busy.
As for the Chinese, could this be a red storm rising, or just another moon landing? Whichever the case with each successive mission new technology is gleaned and advances are made. Can NASA and the other space superpowers afford to watch from the sidelines? It looks like there could be a space brawl brewing with the Chinese in one corner, the Europeans potentially in another, the Russians in a third, and the Americans rounding out the ring. Astronauts, cosmonauts, taikonauts, put your helmets on, shake hands, and may the friendliest nation win.
By Scott Wilson