Chang’e-6 and China’s three-stage program for Moon control

Special to, June 5, 2024


By Richard Fisher

The Chinese and American “new race” to the Moon was advanced by two major developments in the first week of June 2024.

On June 4, China’s second sample-return Moon landing probe, Chang’e-6, successfully launched its 2-kilogram (4.4 lbs) Moon sample carrying ascending stage into Lunar orbit.

While China says its space program “benefits mankind,” its Chang’e-6 Moon mission also advanced the Chinese Communist Party ambition for Moon control. / Xinhua

There it will dock and transfer the Lunar samples to an orbiter-propulsion stage for return to the Earth, to add to the previous 2 kg returned by the Chang’e-5 Mission in 2020.

China sample return mission was the first to target the far side of the Moon, so on June 5 Chinese state media Global Times touted China’s mission as an “’historic’ and ‘remarkable’ achievement.”

Because Global Times is state media in service to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), this article did not mention that in six Apollo Moon missions between 1969 and 1972 the United States returned 382 kilograms of Moon material to Earth.

Global Times also touted China’s humanitarian intentions in space, saying, “China’s exploration of the space is not only based on itself, but also faces the world and benefits mankind.”

And Global Times scoffed at the idea that China’s intentions are less than benign:

“…there are also some American media who are stuck in their stereotypes and sourly stated that the US must ‘land humans back on the moon before China,’ otherwise ‘the authoritarian model will prevail over democracy.’ This mentality is not only unhelpful to human progress, but will also cause the US to miss more opportunities.”

Three-Stage Program for Moon Control

But even at this stage, China is acting like it is building up to achieve Moon control.

Chang’e-6’s landing on the far side of the Moon was made possible by the March 2024 launch of the Queqiao-2 data relay satellite, that will settle into a 10-year elliptical orbit that extends 16,000 kilometers from the Moon, so that it can spend more time servicing Chinese Moon bases in its southern hemisphere.

Queqiao is actually a three-stage Chinese program that will include dozens of communication, surveillance and navigation satellites that will circle the Moon, Mars and Venus, to assure access and control of Chinese unmanned and manned missions to these bodies.

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