The 1st Moon War*


*Editor’s Note: On March 4, Russia enacted a law that criminalizes public opposition to, or independent news reporting about, the war in Ukraine. The law makes it a crime to call the war a “war” rather than a “special military operation” on social media or in a news article or broadcast. The law is understood to penalize any language that “discredits” Russia’s use of its military in Ukraine, calls for sanctions or protests Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It punishes anyone found to spread “false information” about the invasion with up to 15 years in prison.

The Moon beckons. Lunar pastures make people nuts — no wonder they’re called lunatics. Every developed country dreams of leaving its mark on the Moon. And even Stanley Kubrick wanted to.

We know almost everything about the USSR and the U.S. lunar programs. But there’s also China, whose space feats are not yet sung by Russian reporters for obvious reasons. First, because this is probably not that interesting to the Russian reader. Second, because envy has a strong grip. Since we don’t want this feeling to choke our compatriots, we don’t really cover this topic all that much. There’s also another problem — one could assemble a whole dictionary of spelling mistakes trying to spell out the Chinese spacecraft and space station names.

But let’s move on. The first lunar-orbiting spacecraft, Chang’e 1, was launched in 2007 and remained in operation until 2009. The data it gathered allowed Chinese scientists to create, in particular, the first heat map of the Moon. Of course, we’re incredibly happy about this too. All these years we practiced pronouncing “Chang’e,” whatever that means.

And now to the more recent achievements of China’s space kung fu: “On Nov. 24, 2020, China launched the Chang’e 5 sample return mission, and on Dec. 1 it landed in the designated area on the near side of the Moon. Lunar ground samples were collected using a manipulator with a scoop and a drill; the samples were put in the special compartment of the ascent vehicle. The entire mission took 23 days. Chang’e 5 delivered 1,731 grams [about 4 pounds] of samples back to Earth. This spacecraft was the first in 44 years to be sent with a mission to retrieve lunar soil. China became the third country, after the U.S. and the USSR, to fulfill such a mission.”

The next mission is scheduled for 2024. China plans to launch Chang’e 6 to collect samples from the South Pole-Aitken basin on the far side of the Moon.

And here’s where the Americans got mad. The thing is, the Chinese plan to build a prototype of a lunar research station there. It will be comprised of several lunar-orbiting and ground probes and will enable the Chinese to undertake scientific and technological research on Earth’s natural satellite and test the technologies of obtaining and exploiting lunar resources.

All American scientific courtesy ended with the word “resources,” as well as the space solidarity that we saw during the Apollo-Soyuz mission.

In the German tabloid Bild, a publication forbidden in the Russian Federation, the administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Bill Nelson (our boy is 79 years old — are they all Joe Biden’s peers?), decided to sound the alarm for the German audience. It’s even in the name of the article, “NASA-Chef schlägt Alarm.” What is bothering the head of NASA? What we see is remarkable nonsense. “The Chinese plan to occupy the Moon,”** “There is a new space race. This time, with China.” and so on.

The first NASA astronauts will leave for the Moon in 2025, among them the first female astronaut [to go on a lunar mission]. But Beijing’s plans are already a step ahead of the U.S. China plans to build its own lunar base — with Russia! The base is supposed to be ready by 2035. If it’s successful, the taikonauts, as the Chinese astronauts are called, “could undertake lunar experiments starting in 2036.”

Nelson strongly disagrees with such a turn of events. “We must be very concerned that China is landing on the moon and saying: ‘It’s ours now and you stay out.’”

It’s strange, really. Why does the U.S. think that China will definitely call the Moon its new province and start the first moon war, when neither the USSR nor the U.S. did so before? Older American politicians have their own unique logic, and we have long since gotten lost in their thoughts and narratives. The Americans, in particular, are concerned about the lunar South Pole: it’s expected that it has water deposits that, in the future, could be used in rocket fuel production. This means that whoever controls the lunar South Pole has an important base in space. It could possibly allow that nation to exercise its power in space.

Nelson, however, has it all already figured out: “The U.S. space agency chief said China’s space program is a military one.”

And now the Chinese have had enough of the blame game and the stigmatizing of their space program. “The U.S. side has constantly constructed a smear campaign against China’s normal and reasonable outer space endeavors,” Zhao Lijian, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, stated on Monday. We want to add: Dear Comrade Lijian, pay no mind to what almost-80-year-old gerontocrats from the U.S. say. Nelson is so bored with being the head of NASA that he likes to chime in even when the matter is entirely outside his competence. For instance, in May, he raised his voice against school shootings. Five days ago he caught COVID and now is apparently a prominent specialist in microbiology.

And so on. Today we shouldn’t listen to at least two people in the U.S. — Biden and Nelson. No, three: Kamala Harris is also on the list. But that one not because of her age, but because she’s in the habit of talking nonsense. (Although, after I discovered the existence of Dianne Feinstein, 89 years old, who’s fast in her seat protecting electoral democracy, without being reelected herself since 1992,*** the world will never be the same for me again. Both the earthly world and the lunar one.)

These old-timers can set the lunar world on fire as well, as it turns out. So hold fast, our Chinese comrades. This is an imperialistic provocation.

**Editor’s Note: This quote, though accurately translated, could not be verified.

***Editor’s Note: Dianne Feinstein has run for reelection every six years since 1992. She is up for reelection in November 2024.

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About Artem Belov 40 Articles
Artem Belov is a TESOL-certified English teacher and a freelance translator (Russian>English and English>Russian), currently residing in Russia. He is working on a number of projects, including game localization. You can reach him at belov.g.artem@gmail.com

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