On May 30, two NASA astronauts were launched into space under the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, marking the return to a time when the United States transported its people into space without depending on foreign countries like Russia. U.S. private firms can now carry out launches to low-Earth orbits at competitive prices. Consequently, in addition to no longer being dependent on foreign countries for space assistance, NASA can now focus on its longer-term goal of launching Americans into deeper space.
In 2020, China’s Chang’e-5 moon mission discovered a new variant mineral now called Changesite-(Y). The crystal containing helium-3 could prove incredibly valuable as it may offer a new energy source. Scientists believe that the tiny crystals may be able to power nuclear reactors and are abundant on the moon. To put the power of helium-3 in perspective, about three tablespoons of helium-3 could replace 5,000 tons of coal.
Consequently, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) announced plans for three more moon missions over the next 10 years and the construction of a permanent lunar base.
The Chinese space agency frequently captures headlines heralding China’s achievements in space. Apart from Chang’e-5 landing on the moon, China managed to land a rover called Zhurong on Mars in 2021. However, China is slow in the space race. The United States sent its first uncrewed mission to the moon in 1962, followed by a human-crewed mission in 1969. Chinese unmanned craft reached Mars in 2020, a feat NASA had achieved with Mariner 4 in 1964, while the first U.S. craft to land on Mars was Viking 1 in 1975. Currently, with 2,944 satellites, the United States has nearly six times as many satellites orbiting the Earth as China with 499.