China takes to the moon, tied by politics at home


Earlier Saturday morning, China launched the Chang & 39; s robot spacecraft and 4 in progress for the Moon. If all goes well, it will become the first spacecraft in history to land on the far side of the Moon, probably in the early January. This would be a great achievement for China and for the history of spaceflight. But China seems remarkably reserved in discussing this.

For the first time, it does not pay China to announce its strength in space for a civilian launch.

China has always been rather discreet in discussing its space program, but sometimes pulls stops for high-level missions. When astronauts are launched on the Shenzhou spacecraft, or other spacecraft are sent to the moon, China usually stages media blankets through its own channels.

China has been repressing media coverage of sensitive issues in recent times, including space flights, as a result of tighter government policies. But even so, the coverage of the release of Chang & # 39; and 4 was exceptionally quiet.

To be fair, China announced the launch by Xinhua shortly after takeoff. But the special portals and multimedia coverage that China has launched for other space missions have never appeared. There was also no television coverage of the release. Advertising in the days leading up to the launch was essentially absent. CGTN, China's international television network, has covered other events well before the moon's mission.

The Chang & 4; 4 mission has the potential to generate tremendous interest and respect for China, and China uses its space program as a soft power tool for years. Why, then, is the coverage so tight this time around?

The mission is excellent, but the time is inconvenient. China is going through a sequence of interconnected economic and strategic challenges that have filled global headlines for months. Most prominent is the unpleasant trade war with America. But China is also involved in disputes over intellectual property and the treatment of scientists. All these factors are entangled in space flight, which is a high-level demonstration of a nation's prowess in science, technology, industry, and economic strength.

For the first time, it does not pay China to announce its strength in space for a civilian launch. The coverage of military satellite launches is even more stringent, but this is true for any nation. A mission to go where no space mission was before should have a larger profile. But actions in space are always determined by actions on Earth.

Morris Jones


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