China landed on the far side of the moon with very few fanfare on Thursday, but the venture is a huge step for a nation that has long been known as a space race.
When Elon Musk tweets images of stellar ships and NASA, which once directed a Mars mission to a distant future, it seems that the moon is a less exciting destination.
However, space experts have quickly praised China's technical control of the probe's landing and said short-term mining mining capabilities may be minimal, and long-term implications for space exploration are genuine.
"China thinks in decades," said Clive Neal, a lunar expert at Notre Dame University. "USA is considering presidential terms."
Last year, China for the first time crossed the US into orbital launch, mostly for satellites. By landing on the moon, he is now positioned as a candidate for research, communications and space trade.
The stated target for Chang's 4 is sitting on the dark side: Collect samples and find out which minerals are there.
Space observers have said that humanity is more likely to find gold, silver, iridium, and platinum on asteroids. This does not exclude the quest for moon mining in the distant future that could serve as a lunar gas station for the stars.
The primary material on the Moon is helium-3, which is far too expensive to return to Earth. Theoretically, non-radioactive isotope could be used as a fuel for the next generation of spacecraft to explore the universe more deeply.
Imagine driving from "NYC to L.A. without gas stations on the go, "said Peter Diamandis, an entrepreneur who founded XPrize for the promotion of private spaceships. "If you can get fuel from space, this reduces costs."
As far as those who have mined asteroids can be better, if the materials are discovered below the surface. Alex Ellery of Carleton University says that the moon treasure is easier to obtain because it has weight and is close to the Earth.
The next step is the return of humanity to the moon. In the United States, it is debated whether to have a direct landing as soon as possible or to build a moon base that lasts longer. NASA's top manager has committed to the last option.
"Some people in the United States say," We want people to get there in front of China, "says David Todd of the Seradata Space Researcher." Other people say that we have already run this race, and America needs to be careful to walk around the streets. "
Todd said he expects a real market for space tourism to emerge and that the moon will win.
"Elon Musk perceives that we can work with government money and commercial opportunities," Todd said. "I see people who go to the moon for a two-week vacation, but they do not spend two years on Mars."
China may be testing its capability for more sophisticated missions, Neal from Notre Dame told me. This raises the question of why China chose its landing place on one of the oldest and deepest craters.
The answer could be simple, he said. From afar to the moon, Chinese scientists can see farther into the universe because earth-wave waves can not be obstructed.