China’s Moon Rover Raises Questions Over Long Halt in Lunar Landings
A lack of political and scientific interest explains the long interlude, which is broken by a fresh moon race.
With a successful rocket-assisted soft landing, the 220-pound (100-kilogram) rover will also make China only the third nation, besides the U.S.A. and Russia, to stage a slow landing of a spacecraft on the moon. (See also: “China Shoots for the Moon.”)
The last such lunar landing took place with Russia’s Luna 24 mission in 1976, which returned moon rocks to Earth. Apollo 17 in 1972, the most recent manned mission to the moon, was the final U.S. soft lunar landing.
Why haven’t Russian or U.S. landers returned to the moon, and why the long wait for this latest lander?
“The short answer is that there was no compelling scientific reason to go back to the moon,” says space policy expert