China is planning a moon research base that may reshape the space race
By Gong Zhe

Not long after China's Chang'e-5 moon sampler was launched into space, an official working at China's space program mentioned again the plan for a moon research base.

"Chang'e-6, 7 and 8 will be gradually carried out," said Xu Hongliang, Secretary General at the China National Space Administration (CNSA), China's equivalent of NASA.

"An international lunar research base is also planned," he added.

The launch of Chang'e-5 sample-return vehicle on November 24, 2020. /CFP

The launch of Chang'e-5 sample-return vehicle on November 24, 2020. /CFP

A moon base is very likely to host the first humans living on the surface of a sphere other than planet Earth, which can make history.

When will we see that happen? In 10 years, maybe.

Zhang Kejian, head of CNSA who made it to the 2019 version of TIME 100 list, told media back in 2019 that the moon base will be completed in "about 10 years."

China is already making some progress with the "Yuegong-1," a self-contained laboratory that can help humans survive on the moon. Early experiments in 2017 and 2018 showed that volunteers can survive a year in the lab.

A total of 97 percent of the lab is self-contained. That means China only need to send three percent of stuff to the moon every year to keep the lab running all the time.

Volunteers living in the Yuegong-1 lunar base prototype. /CFP

Volunteers living in the Yuegong-1 lunar base prototype. /CFP

More importantly, it will be an international project led by China involving other space powers in the world like Russia and Europe.

"It will be likely located on the southern end of the moon," Wu Weiren, the chief designing engineer of China's lunar project. "It will be used for peace purposes only and benefit all parties involved."

Russia has already turned down invitations from the U.S. to build a moon lab together and instead chose China to be the partner. And Europe is also paying close attention to China's lunar project, looking for chances of cooperation.

The U.S. may not be lucky this time because they blocked themselves from all Chinese space programs since 2011.

Possible weapon?

For sci-fi fans, this may remind them about Netflix TV comedy series "Space Force", which depicts a fictional fight between the Chinese and U.S. moon crew that destroyed the moon base of both nations.

Though the comedy made space war look funny, the reality is that a moon base could possibly be utilized as a weapon.

"We Chinese stand against space warfare," said Ouyang Zhiyuan, chief scientist at China's lunar project. "But that won't stop others using the moon in wars."

Controlling the high ground can be useful for soldiers. That's why people capture mountain tops and build castles during battles. In modern warfare, planes and satellites are often used to provide advantage in height.

The highest place humans have ever reached is the moon.

"Every space power is saying they want to build research facilities on the moon," Ouyang told Global People, "but it's only an excuse. What they actually want is occupying land on the moon."

Ouyang described the possibility of setting up light speed weapons on the moon. Such weapon can hit target on Earth in less than two seconds.

"And you can't destroy the weapon because it's too far away," he added.

Endless energy?

The moon may help humans to destroy ourselves, but it may also help us survive longer in the universe.

The moon has no atmosphere, so there's almost nothing blocking the sunlight. This makes the moon a great place to build solar power plants – maybe better than anywhere on Earth.

In addition, the moon may help us build an "endless" energy source – the artificial sun.

The international artificial sun project "ITER" starts assembly in France in July 2020. /CFP

The international artificial sun project "ITER" starts assembly in France in July 2020. /CFP

Modern science has revealed that most of the energy we use today originated from sunlight – coal and oil are basically storage of ancient sunlight.

Scientists and engineers have been trying to build a smaller sun on Earth for decades. And Helium-3 is a great fuel to that.

100 tons of Helium-3 can generate the energy needed by all humans for a year. And there may be a million tons of  Helium-3 on the moon – which can help humans survive another 10,000 years.

Building the artificial sun requires many strict conditions, some of which can be easily met on the moon since the sphere has much less gravity than the Earth.

Listen to CGTN's Zou Yue explaining why the "artificial sun" can change everything.

Imagine if we don't need oil anymore. Lots of wars will become pointless and we may enjoy one of the most peaceful ages ever. Isn't that great?

And that's why we should continue the effort of lunar exploration. China's international moon lab could be a good start.