China Sees Lunar South Pole Base by Around 2029

Moon (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

During the National Space Council meeting in March. Vice President Mike Pence declared that the United States was in a space race with China. That declaration was not particularly newsworthy; China’s military-run space program has been surging in recent years as the emerging Asian superpower seeks superiority on the high frontier.

Pence did raise some eyebrows when he used China’s rise to justify move up America’s return to the moon by four years from 2028 to 2024. Was China’s human spaceflight program really planning to move that quickly? Does the moon have that much strategic value? Were the two nations really in a race to the lunar surface?

If they weren’t then, they are now. Maybe.

China’s official Xinhua news agency reports:

China aims to build a scientific research station in the south polar region of the moon and realize manned lunar exploration mission in about ten years, said a senior space official on Wednesday.

Zhang Kejian, head of the China National Space Administration, made the remarks at the opening ceremony of China’s Space Day in Changsha, capital of central China’s Hunan Province.

That is all details the story provides. There is no information about a schedule, budget, or what “about 10 years means.” Nothing that would allow an outsider to judge whether the seriousness of the effort.

Still, even a vague announcement might help the Trump Administration sell its plans to a still skeptical Congress. At hearings after Pence’s speech, legislators expressed skepticism about the urgency of once again racing another country to the moon.

Of course, an actual proposal with a schedule and budget numbers would have helped. In his speech, Pence boldly claimed that NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine had just told him the space agency had a plan. It actually didn’t.

Published reports indicate Bridenstine plans to have a proposal ready by the end of this month. He has said that NASA will seek an additional appropriation on top of its $21.5 billion budget for the current 2019 fiscal year.

The south pole is where the Trump Administration wants to land astronauts in time for Pence’s presidential run in 2024. Since China is also aiming to set up shop in that same area, could a cooperative program be in the works? The answer from the Administration is not yet.

In a speech earlier this week, National Space Council Executive Director Scott Pace noted that past cooperation in space between the United States and the Soviet Union (and later, Russia) followed an improvement in relations between the rival nations.

A level of trust is required between the two nations because joint space activities can be undertaken, Pace said. That is especially true when it comes to the high profile and high risk area of human spaceflight. That trust does not currently exist between the U.S. and China, he added.

Pace said that smaller measures involving space science, such as an exchange of lunar samples, could help to build trust between the two nations. China plans to launch its Chang’e-5 lunar sample return mission later this year.

However, he warned his audience to be wary of Chinese espionage efforts when forging links in space cooperation.

  • Robert G. Oler

    I’ve read it…its not.

  • Robert G. Oler

    There is no unified Islamic uprising..that is a right wing Trump myth

  • Gerald Cecil

    Why so if they just buy cargo space? They’re all capitalists after all.

  • Gerald Cecil

    Will Tesla keep their impressive motor tech under wraps in their upcoming factory in China?

  • ThomasLMatula

    Given Chinese law they probably won’t be able to as a Chinese partner must own a majority stake in it. That is one element of China in having extremely high tariffs, to force foreign firms to manufacture there so its easiler to steal their information.

  • ThomasLMatula

    From the U.S. Military Academy’s website on terrorism. Its a bit dated, but a good professional summary.

    https://ctc.usma.edu/uighur-dissent-and-militancy-in-chinas-xinjiang-province/

  • ThomasLMatula

    Another crack…

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-48084019

    Hong Kong: Thousands protest against China extradition law
    April 28, 2019

  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    There is plenty of pork in a Moon base. Development of the habitats, long term ECLSS (life support), rovers and ISRU equipment. Lots of launch vehicles and landers will need manufacturing.

    Now how to get the rest of the USA to support the lunar base?

  • redneck

    ITAR, International Traffic in Arms Regulations) can kill almost any deal with foreign countries if state dept throws enough roadblocks up. I believe 90% of it is Chicken Little, but don’t know exactly which is the 10% that should be protected.

  • duheagle

    Sounds more like a strawman left-wing Trump myth. Or can you actually point to anything Trump has said about an alleged pan-Islamic uprising? There are, in fact, quite a few Islamic uprisings, some of which are civil wars.

  • duheagle

    That isn’t an issue. Tesla keeps none of its IP under wraps.

  • redneck

    I think we may have differing definitions of pork. To me pork is zip code engineering with actual productivity an occasional side effect. What you are referring to seems to be job creating productivity that is spread around a bit. If we are getting our moneys worth, it’s not pork.

  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    To get something useful make sure the right people define the problem.

    I suspect most politicians do not care if we get our moneys worth out of their pork, although the tax payers may differ.

    To get the money we need both public and Congressional support. So talk to the public about the glory and usefulness of the Moon base. To the politicians say what their constituency may get out of it.

  • Vladislaw

    LOL .. it goes to C A P A B I L I T Y … the United States can go to Luna when ever we want .. oh that’s right .. we send landers there, and people already .. anything china does, until they land humans and can put probes around every planet, is playing catch up … We have multiple commercial companies with hardware in the pipeline .. American can and will be dropping so much hardware so quickly .. it will be laughable to compare china to it. Their 1st priority is their space station with is the only hardware getting funding .. we have been living in LEO for almost 20 continuous years . that is experience China can not wave a magic wand and aquire.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Manufacturing was not what the USSR lacked, but there are many ways to die. They lacked private enterprise and the richness that comes with having many many mostly independent bosses. The Chinese are threading the needle of having both state corporate structures as well as private corporate structures, and their government is skilled in directing the actions of both sectors. Thirdly, they understand how to successfully engage and strategically undermine the American business sector.

  • Robert G. Oler

    fantasy just useless babble

  • redneck

    Your first sentence defines the problem. Any program totally dependent on having the right people in charge is very likely to end up with the wrong people in charge. Politicians typically are after power just as businessmen are typically after money.

    People after power are far less responsive to real world performance.Many things getting government money should not. A successful program should be able to make progress under a variety of managers. Who owns McDonald’s today?

  • Robert G. Oler

    the entire Trump theory of the mideast such as it is is based on some myth of an islamic uprising…

  • Robert G. Oler

    I have read it…and will see where it goes.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    More than fair to ask for. I’m traveling today, but should have some time to assemble later in the week.

  • duheagle

    So are you denying the Chinese demographic collapse now in its early stages or did you have something else in mind?

  • duheagle

    Sez you. As usual, you have no evidence on offer.

  • duheagle

    So, as usual, no cites. Why am I not surprised?

  • Robert G. Oler

    no not happening a fiction of the GOP right…Chinese society is in fact integrating…I take it you have never been there. I have a three day there in a week 🙂 you have no clue about what you are talking about fan boy

  • Robert G. Oler

    LOL fan boy

  • duheagle

    As the late economist Herbert Stein once said, “Things that can’t continue – won’t.”

    The United States didn’t get into its current predicaments by accident. Most of its current ills are the direct result of Democratic Party-sponsored legislation and programs instituted over the past 90-odd years – and especially over the last 60.

    Spending is out of control. At the state level – at least in major Blue states – things are even worse than in DC. Well over half of CA’s budget goes to education – this is required by an amendment to the CA state constitution passed a couple decades back. Virtually all this spending goes for salaries and pensions. That is a direct consequence of public sector employee unionization enabled by Jerry Brown during his first term as Governor back in the late 70’s. But the CA education system – once one of the best in the nation – has decayed into one of the worst as it nonetheless sucks up tax money lick a turgid tick.

    With most of the state budget going to fat salaries and even fatter, but underfunded, pensions for state employees, there is little left over for fixing roads and other infrastructure, never mind doing any real expansion of public infrastructure – the most badly needed of which is for water supply.

    At the federal level, over half the budget goes for Social Security and Medicare. These don’t qualify as useless expenditures, but they are not on a long-term sustainable track. There is, of course, a fabulous amount of wastage in the remainder of the federal budget as well, much of that also due to the unionization of most federal employees.

    A great deal of current wastage could be averted by the simple expedient of once again prohibiting the unionization of government employees at all levels.

    Social Security can be fixed by indexing the retirement age to the average remaining life expectancy at age 65.

    Social Security also needs to be made universal. That means no separate pension systems for government employees.

    Given that Social Security is a pay-as-you-go system funded from current taxes, but that the proportion of payers-in vs. takers-out has fallen radically since the program was instituted, SocSec needs to be transitioned to some basis other than pay-as-you-go taxation.

    That means a funding source that grows with the general economy – stocks and bonds. An actual SocSec Trust Fund, based on government investment in market index funds, could be started with the proceeds from confiscating all the current government employee union pension funds and haircutting all government pensions to the same SocSec levels as private sector workers with the same salary history.

    Needless to say, any and all such reforms will be resisted with scorched-earth ferocity by the Democratic Party.

    The American middle class is in trouble because government is too big, too rapacious and too intrusive. A larger and larger percentage of the workforce is employed by small businesses. Government regulation, at all levels, is generally hardest on small businesses. That was especially true during the dark days of the Obama Administration. The Trump Administration has done yeoman work cancelling Obama-era edicts, but more needs to be done.

    The pygmies are still pygmies and we know how to fight them. What we have forgotten how to do is transform conquered hostile nations into decent world citizens. Our current problems in the Middle East and Afghanistan could have been largely avoided had we run both Iraq and Afghanistan under military governments of occupation as we did Germany and Japan after WW2. By virtue of being spooked by any suggestion of “American Imperialism” we guaranteed open-ended future trouble by giving these places back to the locals far too quickly.

    It is true we can’t seem to develop military and space hardware as we once could. The reasons are entirely institutional and bureaucratic. We need to utterly abandon current development and procurement practices and get things back to something like what applied during WW2 and the early Cold War. We also need to inject some much-needed entrepreneurial yeast into the military-industrial complex. The doddering legacy contractors haven’t had an original idea worth the powder it would take to blow it up in decades.

    The SDA and Space Force could be twin catalysts for this sort of change if the Trump Administration can plow through the considerable opposition to both which exists in the Congress, the uniformed services and the legacy contractor “community.”

    There is nothing inevitable about American decline. What’s mainly needed to fix things is to reverse about a half-century of leftist depredations and keep Democrats out of national office for 20 or more years.

  • duheagle

    Lordy, you really are an idiot.

    Due to 40 years of the One-Child Policy, the last three Chinese generations have each been roughly half the size of the ones preceding them. This is a much lower effective total fertility rate than even the disappearing nations of Western Europe typically have. Reversing the policy isn’t going to lackweight the effects of that lost four decades. The total Chinese population figure is going to be pretty much in a holding pattern until mid-century, but the number of younger people will continue to crash while the number of the elderly and infirm skyrockets. By 2050 or so, India will have 450 million more people than China and an average age of its citizenry two decades or more lower than that of China.

    Just because you see a lot of Chinese people on the streets of whatever modern coastal enclave you do your layovers in doesn’t mean China, as a whole, isn’t in the grip of an unprecedented demographic crisis.

  • windbourne

    what? I would think then that you believe that Russia has the best chance of getting there.

  • windbourne

    that is not true in the least.
    Tesla has a BUTT load of trade secrets esp. in Manufacturing. But they had their motor using hallenbach array, and then munaro exposed that.
    But most are in their plant, which is why Tesla and SpaceX do some work on checking who they hire.

  • windbourne

    wrong.
    Tesla has no chinese partner. It was the ONLY way that they would come in there.

    BUT, for the other idiots like BMW, GE, etc. they have all given away their company and tech.
    Idiots.

  • savuporo

    Russia has no money and no demonstrated ability to conduct beyond-earth-orbit space missions at all anymore.

    Chinese deep space flight capabilities are quite a bit more developed

  • savuporo

    China has over 30 launches on calendar for this year, the rate is not slowing down.

  • Robert G. Oler

    in a world of automation you need less people…and they had a lot to start with 🙂

  • duheagle

    Even 30 launches is fewer than they did last year. And for the first four months of this year, China has been launching at only half that rate.

  • duheagle

    You need fewer people to do some things. But China hasn’t automated much of its manufacturing – cheap coolie labor was the main attraction to Western businesses after all. And automation to Western levels will cost vast sums of money China isn’t going to have when all the aged and infirm have to be looked after.

  • duheagle

    You may be right about manufacturing IP. That wouldn’t surprise me. But as to its car tech, Tesla patents its stuff as a prophylactic measure against future usurpers with patent trolling in mind, then puts it all in the public domain. Elon wants other companies to make electric cars and doesn’t mind if they’re Tesla knock-offs.

  • Robert G. Oler

    they are pretty automated in production far more then we are sorry another aspect you are ill informed in