During the 1950s and 1960s, the space race between the USA and USSR was in many ways the world’s most expensive vanity project wherein two superpowers competed against one other to achieve something that had no ostensible benefits to life on earth. In the immediate term, space exploration did little for the common man beyond the cosmological equivalent of bread and circuses (minus the bread). But in the longer term, many of the technologies used in the space exploration of the mid-20th century came to revolutionise consumer technologies by the late 20th century and beyond. Everything from the personal computer and smart phone, to freeze dried food preservation techniques and solar cells were directly derived from the technologies pioneered in the field of space exploration.
This is what makes China’s lunar rover expedition so important. While China can now say that it is the first country to reach the dark side of the moon (aka the far side of the moon), the benefits that China’s success in space exploration will have on the ordinary man and woman throughout the remainder of the 21st century will certainly be immense.
As China is working to rapidly transform its strong economy from a production centred superpower to an innovation centred superpower, space travel could be the gateway to a slew of new Chinese innovations and patented technologies that will come to benefit humanity at large, in the same way that mankind is still reaping the benefits of technical advances that derived from the first generation of space exploration.
As China already stands at the forefront of modern innovation ranging from 5G telecommunications technology to pioneering medical research, China’s space programme should be thought of less as the final frontier but simply as a further frontier in the country’s drive to Create in China. It is because of this that the seemingly remote concept of space travel can in the medium and long term benefit the ordinary person, thus fulfilling the people-centred economic goals which have been established in Xi Jinping Thought.