Why hasn't China (or Russia) put a man on the moon?

The propaganda benefits would be obviously enormous. I can’t believe these countries lack the technical capability. If the Americans could achieve it with the relatively primitive technology of the 1960s surely it must be quite straightforward now. Economic considerations? I can believe that with Russia. But China? They have a massive economy.

So what’s stopping them?

In short, it’s been done and there’s no particular reason to do it again.

People have already walked on the moon, so the propaganda value of doing it again is pretty low, at least compared to the cost. Only with a bit more time and some advances in technology will that change.

It’s important to keep in mind that even when it was the first time going to the moon, a lot of people thought it was kind of a silly idea.

ETA: See, for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjDEsGZLbio

One reason, because unless you are setting up a permanent base there is nothing a manned expedition can do which robotic probes can’t do easier and cheaper.

China has announced publically they are working towards a manned moon expedition:

Some people seem to claim they aren’t actually planning to go there however:

Anyway the Chinese economy is in serious trouble at the moment. Their share index is a bubble, the market is trying to correct it but the government keeps propping it up. They can only do that so long, it will crash eventually, sometime this year.

China has been working on it. They are planning a manned mission for 2020. They aren’t in a race with anyone so it makes sense that they’ll take their time. There’s nothing in it for Russia, it was a major failure for the Soviets already.

The Chinese will now probably not go. Such a mission is monstrously more expensive than many realize and the Chinese economy (and military) have better things to do with the money, like. . . artificial islands, for example. . .

As previously noted, it would be practically useless unless it was part of a manned base to be built.

my friend worked at NASA in the 60s. He said they knew Soviets were way behind but kept quiet about that in order to make sure the money kept flowing to NASA.

For the same reason we haven’t been back in nearly 50 years, it was more about competing in the Cold War by spending money on a space program rather than on a proxy (or actual) war.

Also the technology available today wouldn’t make it much easier or cheaper. The only thing that’s really increased is computing power, and it was more than good enough by the 60s to get us there. Computer aided designed and simulations didn’t really exist back then so these would streamline and speed up a current program, but in the end it’s still mostly all about mass and ΔV.

That seems likely with the current economic conditions in China. There’s just no incentive to spend the money needed to do this. This has been the situation since we first landed on the moon and much to our surprise we found there nothing there.

Because there’s really no reason to. Many have argued, including James Webb, the NASA administrator under JFK, that there wasn’t really a compelling reason back in the 60s, either.

That, plus the fact that the other major technological advances have been in robotics, making manned missions not only just about equally if not more expensive than they were in the 60s, but less important from a scientific perspective. By “robotics” I mean not just automated landers but highly sophisticated spacecraft like the Mars orbiter, Voyager, Cassini, and New Horizons.

We probably know more about Mars today than we would if had had no robotics and just focused on all-out efforts to send a few manned missions there by the 80s or 90s. We certainly know phenomenally more about the solar system as a whole than could possibly have been achieved with manned missions. I think it would be far more exciting to send a robotic mission to Europa than to send Matt Damon to Mars.

No, all those other worlds are ours, but on Europa we may not land.

Hah! Yep, Arthur C. Clarke helped promulgate a mythology about Europa, but it definitely appears to be a special place with a likely warm underground ocean. Not the only one, either – Enceladus is another good candidate with a similar makeup. That magnificent Cassini picture is from this article by Phil Plait that has a few others.

Except for our whole ‘rocks we brought back being invaluable in understanding how the Moon was formed’ thingy I suppose. :dubious: Not to mention all the other data and experience we got and brought back, experiments we did some of which are still there and working and such, of course. Hard to believe that anyone thinks the trips were a waste. Also hard to believe that anyone thinks it would be worthless to go back.

I think the answer to the OPs question is that it’s a bit more difficult to do and more expensive than folks think it was/is. Everyone seems to be under the impression that it’s something easy and that anyone could do it but why bother? Contrary to this seeming believe, however, it’s actually not all that easy to do and it costs quite a bit…the US made it look easy, but the reality is that it really wasn’t and it cost a hell of a lot. The USSR probably knew it couldn’t do it even at it’s height, at least not with a high enough probability of success to spend/risk the additional resources and propaganda capital to take a shot at it…consider what failing would look like. Instead, they refocused on stuff they could do. China has had no real shot at it at all, and even now really couldn’t do it, though they certainly would/will if they ever can. It would be a huge propaganda victory for them, another (much needed) demonstration that they are in the top tier of nations, something the Communist Party desperately needs and wants to reinforce. The reality is that what they have done has stretched their capabilities to their limits and sending and retrieving a human crew to the Moon and back is beyond what they can do now or in the near future, even leaving aside their economy melting down/slowing down. The only country that COULD do a Moon landing today or in the near future is the only country that has done it, and we don’t seem to have the will or cohesion of purpose for large scale manned missions. I figure that the next humans to land on the Moon will probably be some sort of consortium of private space companies, other interests, something like crowd funding and perhaps several nation states.

China is eager to show that it belongs at the grown-ups table, for sure.

But this is complicated by the reality that ordinary people still remember (and sometimes still live in) third-world conditions, something which makes people extraordinarily practical. Tangible improvements to the standard of living are much more valuable, propaganda wise, than bragging rights to something that people can’t experience directly. A highway between your village and the city is worth a dozen moon landings.

And while China is capable of playing the long game and investing in things that are not immediately profitable, a moon landing doesn’t really fit in to that mold either. It’s not a long-term investment. It’s a short term one of limited value.

Then there is the fact that it’s been done before. “We’re number two!” just doesn’t have a great ring to it. Indeed, it mostly highlights the other guys achievement.

 The Russians were first to launch a satellite, the first to have a man in orbit and the first to have a man walk in space.  It may have been perfectly reasonable for someone to conclude they were ahead in the race to put a man on the moon.   Or that people in the past under estimated the Russians.

I cannot think of a more useless project than a Moon colony, or another moon landing. It would cost a fortune and prove very little. Robotic probes can accomplish far more with less risk. What interests me: the Chinese manned Space program seems to be on hold-is this because of the recession in China?

As th Soviet Lunoshok programme proved. No you cannot.

China is very far from being in recession. Its reported GDP growth (7% annualised in Q3 2015) far outstrips that of most developed countries (although I accept that there is some scepticism around the reported figures). What has happened is that the growth rate is lower than it was previously - a slowdown, not a recession.

A manned mission to the moon may bankrupt China.

There is evidence that the Soviet Shuttle Program contributed to the collapse of The Soviet Union.

Just a thought.


That is just so wrong in every way. First of all I presume what you’re referring to is Lunokhod, not Lunoshok. Lunokhod met all of its major program objectives and was a marvel of success for its day. Its primary purpose wasn’t scientific research, but to gather data and provide learnings to support the Soviet manned lunar program, and it did what it was designed to do. Indeed Lunokhod 1 successfully operated on the surface of the moon for nearly a year, and Lunokhod 2 set a record for distance traveled by a man-made extraterrestrial vehicle that was unbroken for 41 years.

We didn’t hear much about them because the first lander arrived after Apollo astronauts had already walked on the moon, so as pure propaganda it was kind of anti-climactic. The Americans had won the propaganda war. But what had they really achieved? Scientifically, as I said, really not all the much, and nothing that could not have been done far more easily and cheaply with robotics.

Modern robotics is phenomenally more advanced than what it was in the days of Apollo and Lunokhod. Our knowledge of the solar system has been immeasurably enriched by robotic missions like Mars orbiters, Voyager, Cassini, Viking, Spirit and Opportunity, Curiosity, New Horizons, the several comet exploration missions, and others I can’t think of right now. Not to mention the many orbiting observatories – we tend to think mainly of Hubble but there are actually about a hundred different ones in total. And that fascinating and priceless knowledge will continue to grow if we don’t blow the entire NASA budget on some ill-advised manned program that costs more than all the robotic missions put together.