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China to allow everyone except the US to get samples from the dark side of the moon

China to allow everyone except the US to get samples from the dark side of the moon

Earlier this week, China's Chang'e-6 lunar probe landed in Mongolia with the first samples collected from the far side of the moon. The mission has attracted a lot of attention in the scientific community, because we can never see the far side of the moon from Earth, so we know very little about it, and so far only China has managed to land there.

However, there is one country that has been left out of the fun: the United States. That’s because the US passed the Wolf Amendment in 2011, which prevents NASA from using government funds to work directly with China. Unsurprisingly, this legislation has become a topic of debate in recent days, with rumors even suggesting it could be withdrawn. Read the article Futuristic In his report.

Is the race to the moon heating up?

Chang'o-4 spacecraft in a photo of the Jütu lunar rover. US Environmental Protection Agency/Siuyi Zhang/Kevin M. Gill/Wikimedia

According to conservative voices, China is the most important adversary (among others) in space, while according to more progressive proponents, the United States can benefit from China's rapid development in space research. Scientific American Magazine Still in 2021. Bian Zhigang, deputy head of the China National Space Administration, said, “The source of the obstacle to cooperation between the United States and China in the field of space exploration is still the Wolf Amendment.”

“If the United States really wants regular cooperation in space exploration, it should take appropriate steps to remove this obstacle.”

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Chinese officials announced that the Chang'o-6 spacecraft has returned nearly two kilograms of samples from the far side of the moon. It's not the largest sample from the moon—NASA's Apollo 16 mission returned 11.7 kilograms of rock in 1972—but it's the first sample collected from the far side. That part of the celestial body is very rocky, so its cratered surface only complicates exploration.

Now, China’s Chang’o-6 mission could be a major breakthrough. For one thing, the samples could shed light on local resources, including water ice, that future space explorers could use. And while China is collaborating with several countries on its project, the United States is unlikely to be part of the joint effort when scientists analyze the samples in the lab.

But that doesn't mean China is not open to cooperation.

“China welcomes scholars from all countries to apply according to the procedures and enjoy the benefits.”
Liu Yunfeng, director of international cooperation at the China National Space Administration, said.

The Wolf Amendment prohibits NASA from using government funds to collaborate with the Chinese government — unless it certifies from the FBI that such collaboration will not pose a national security risk or leak space technology or data. This is said to be necessary to pressure China to improve its human rights record, but experts say the desired changes have not materialized in the past 13 years.

Instead, China has made significant progress, sending several rovers to the moon during that time and launching its own space station in less than two years. Still, there’s little chance that NASA will help China study samples from the far side of the moon. Last year, in a rare collaboration between the United States and China, NASA asked scientists to apply to study samples brought back from the near side of the moon by the Chang’o-5 mission in 2020.

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At the time, the space agency announced that it had provided the necessary certifications to Congress to prove that there was no risk to the technology or data leakage.

For now, China can feel good, having far outpaced NASA with nearly six successful moon missions in recent years.
While NASA is not hard to beat right now, since their last trip to the moon was more than half a century ago—in December 1972, to be exact—they still have some hurdles to overcome if they are to return to the throne of outer space.

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