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A New Race to the Moon Has Begun

A new race to the Moon has begun

Published: 06th February, 2019 at 00:00
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What China’s pioneering lunar mission means for the future of space exploration.

China has made the Moon exciting again.


At the start of the year, the country’s space agency dropped a lander and rover on the far side of the Moon, a place we’ve photographed but never visited. Named Chang’e 4, the mission is up there now studying the geology of the Moon’s surface. It’s even doing a bit of astronomy, from its uniquely quiet viewpoint. What it finds will help us understand the Moon’s past: how it formed and why the far side is so different from the bit we see. But perhaps more excitingly, Chang’e 4’s roving could tell us what’s in store for the Moon’s future.

By digging into the Moon’s geology, particularly on the far side, Chang’e 4 could spot vital resources. On the one hand, there are precious treasures up there that we need on Earth, like helium-3 (a useful fuel) and rare-earth metals. On the other hand, this geological intel can provide a clearer picture of what building materials are available for a future lunar mission. Similarly, data gathered on the amount of radiation experienced on the Moon will help shape the manned lunar missions that China hopes to launch in the next decade. That’s just scratching the surface, though, as the mission is dripping with promise. To find out what Chang’e 4 has in store for us, and how it might stoke a new generation of space exploration, check out the new issue of BBC Focus.

And finally, next month our magazine is getting a refresh. Don’t worry, we’ll still be the magazine you know and love, but we have taken this opportunity to listen to your feedback and make some of the changes you’ve been asking for. Make sure you pick up a new-look issue on 6 March (we’re pretty excited about it!).

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A New Race to the Moon Has Begun

A new race to the Moon

China’s Chang’e 4 lunar mission has landed. Could this be the start of a new space race?

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My life scientific - With plasma physicist Dr Melanie Windridge.

Don’t forget that BBC Focus is also available on all major digital platforms. We have versions for AndroidKindle Fire and Kindle e-reader, as well as an iOS app for the iPad and iPhone.

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Daniel BennettEditor, BBC Science Focus

Daniel Bennett is the Editor of BBC Science Focus. He is an award-winning journalist who’s been reporting on science and technology for over a decade, writing about the science of serials killers, sandwiches, supernovae and almost everything in between.


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