A simulated landing process of Chang'e-4 lunar probe is seen through the monitor at Beijing Aerospace Control Center in Beijing, capital of China, Jan. 3, 2019. China's Chang'e-4 probe touched down on the far side of the moon in January, becoming the first spacecraft soft-landing on the moon's uncharted side never visible from Earth. (Xinhua/Jin Liwang)
With the coming 50th anniversary of the moon landing, a Chinese aerospace expert speculated that China would be able to achieve its own manned lunar landing by around 2035, establishing a permanent lunar base rather than NASA's symbolic footprint of 1969.
Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the first man on the moon, with posts to commemorate the historic moment going viral on Chinese social media platforms such as Sina Weibo.
Encouraged by China's space achievements, many posted online that lunar exploration was viable in the foreseeable future.
Among them, Wang Ya'nan, chief editor of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, speculated that China will be "technically ready" for a manned lunar landing by around 2035.
The space expert told the Global Times Tuesday that unlike the Apollo projects with their Cold War competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, China's manned lunar landing, hopefully in the "decade between 2030 to 2040," would be conducted with clear and specific scientific research goals.
Such goals include exploring the possibility of establishing a permanent moon village or base for researchers to conduct long-term scientific projects and using the natural satellite of the Earth as an energy supply hub for deeper space exploration, Wang said.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence made a statement in March saying that NASA was directed to return American astronauts to the lunar surface within the next five years "by any means necessary," CNN reported.
The sudden acceleration of the U.S. returning to the moon showed that the U.S. side was feeling the pressure posed by Chinese space advancements in moon exploration, Chinese analysts concluded.
A bigger reason behind the hasty U.S. plan might be that any nation including the U.S. would know the moon might be a perfect resource base after the discovery of water ice and abundant helium-3, a clean energy that would solve the energy crisis on Earth, Wang noted.
He concluded that another reason should be the moon's position as a strategic bridgehead for future deeper space exploration.
In an interview with CBS Face the Nation on Sunday NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said that "We're so far ahead of China right now, it's not even a comparison."
In reply, Wang noted that China has never chased a ranking in the space sector. Taking the Chang'e lunar probe series as an example, China has not skipped a step in the unmanned orbit-land-return while the U.S. Apollo project jumped right onto manned landing to win its race with the Soviet Union.
Chinese space observers also expect NASA to lift its policy of excluding cooperation with China.
Cooperation between China and the U.S. would benefit all mankind, significantly reducing the costs and risks of space projects for both sides, they said. The U.S. should throw off its Cold War mentality, seek to cooperate rather than compete.