The successful return of China's Chang'e-5 mission to orbit the moon to drill into the lunar soil is commendable. This has promoted great progress in the field of space science and created many new ‘firsts’ in history. First of all, it is a breakthrough that China can send a payload of 8.2 tons to the lunar orbit by rocket propulsion. Second, it is also the first time that the lunar module can land on the moon at a certain location based on the new map of the moon. Third, completing the excavation and sampling within 24 hours is the biggest goal of this lunar exploration. Fourth, the lunar soil is transferred from the moon module to the moon ship by automatically linking them in the orbit of the moon. No one is operating in the spacecraft, which proves that the automation design technology of this mission is mature. Fifth, the unmanned driving back to the scheduled landing site in Inner Mongolia is flawless. The sixth is to use the technology of long-range missiles to dap across outside the atmosphere of the earth and to select an accurate coordinate for the moon ship to penetrate through the atmosphere returning to earth safely. The seventh is to send real-time images (video) of part of the mission back to Earth so that we can see it. Eighth, the complete success of the mission shows that China is extremely competent in hardware and software technologies for space exploration, especially in the manufacturing and application of computers and semiconductor chips needed in the design of the intelligent control systems.
Having said that, some people may ask why are the Chinese telecommunication and electronics companies are being ‘choked by the neck’ by the U.S. sanction? Actually, this is a business strategy issue rather than a military or space technology problem. Of course, military weaponry or space exploration must have high technology, but they are dependent on technology in terms of ‘quality’ and ‘reliability’ far more than ‘quantity yield’ and ‘low cost’ as commercial products demanding them. Military weapons development and space exploration are expensive in terms of research and development (R&D), but relatively little demand for mass manufacturing. The unit price is not very important in military components as long as the products can pass multiple environmental tests, such as high and low pressure, high and low temperature and other operational specifications. The task reliability can always be guaranteed by choosing tested parts from one out of a hundred even one out of a ten thousand units. Commercial technology products, for example, smart phones, require hundreds of millions of low-cost parts which have to pass a slightly looser use environment test. But the difficulty is that commercial products can’t afford the picking one out of a hundred approaches. The cost of the parts will be too high, and the mobile phone cannot have competitive prices or the so-called ‘cabbage prices’.
Under a global free trade environment, everyone divides labor and parts, cooperates in manufacturing and assembly, and buys and sells to each other. The U.S. has always been the leader in semiconductor chips and chip design. China is a big buyer and the US is a big seller. This gives the US a chance to choke China’s neck if a trade relation becomes sour. That is precisely what has happened. If China wants to produce all the chips on her own, she must invest tons of money in ultra clean chip manufacturing plants. This creates a competition in capital, skilled workers, technology and time. As for the so-called critical (Guanjian) technology, like the three-nanometer lithography machine is currently only manufactured by ASML in the Netherlands, and China must find short cuts to overtake it by R&D innovation since it is on the sanction list. Fortunately, this nanometer technology has reached near the end of physical limit, thus it is possible to catch up in time. Furthermore, the biggest advantage of the nano-technology is to help the problem of ‘quantity’, that is, the nanometer technology can make several times the number of devices on the same chip and more chips per wafer reducing the cost of the chip and the size of the circuit. New smart phones have more and more functions which need more circuits and memory cells. The three nanometer technology will help the smart phone because the compaction of components in a thin flat phone. Therefore, the United States can ‘pinch the neck’ of Huawei's smart phone business by sanctioning the export of semiconductor chips and manufacturing technologies. Huawei needs small chips and a large number of low-priced components. But then again, American manufacturers may not find other buyers if they don’t sell to China since China is the world's largest market. If the Chinese people don't buy cell phones with American chips except domestic products, then in a few years, American companies will collapse, and China's mass production technology and nanometer technology will catch up.
Speaking of lunar exploration, the 1.731 kilograms of lunar soil brought back by Chang'e 5 this time is very meaningful and valuable. There are many news reports in the media reporting that China will give some lunar soil to friendly countries, all thinking from political angles. The author has also seen a lot of discussions about Lunar Soil on the Internet. Some people suggest that Mainland China should give a little to Taiwan, and see what the Tsai government will do. If the Tsai Administration refuses to accept, it will make the world laugh. The author believes that the significance of exploring the moon should by no means be limited to political consideration. Space science is closely related to the future of mankind. This is why the lunar soil is valuable and the lunar space science is important in the future. Space knowledge and technology may dominate the future development of the Earth, and the moon is a ‘leaping board’ to space. The value of lunar soil and lunar research can be easily imagined: this is also why every major country in the world is launching a new lunar exploration plan. The author also believes that China should set aside a portion of the lunar soil for research by the civilian scientific institutions. Applications from non-governmental academic circles in all China, including Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan should be encouraged to apply for lunar soil for research, abiding by the same rules for review and approval. Do not waste lunar soil as political presents, especially not to the unfriendly Taiwan government. China central government can give invitation to the Academia Sinica of the Taiwan government to participate in the international seminar on lunar soil and lunar exploration, which should be a non-political but global continuous affair. China should also invite the institutions and states in the U.S. as well as EU, Russia, Japan, South Korea and India to participate in such global collaborative space research conferences. In reciprocity, if any lunar soil should be offered to any friendly and/or helpful countries, the main purpose should be for space scientific research with suggested research topics and expectation for some meaningful findings. On the issue of moon exploration and space research, China should try to play a leader’s role despite of her previous exclusion by the international space effort. China should follow the principle that space science should have no country borders and let natural leadership guide the direction of human space science. China may consider setting up a ‘Chang’e Prize’ (say of 30 million RMB little higher than the Nobel Prize) to encourage international scientists to conduct space research and let space science serve the well-being and peace of mankind. China and any other country willing should strive to contribute to space science research collaboratively.