Prospects for China-US Space Collaboration Heightened by Chang’e 6 Mission

China’s Chang’e 6 mission has successfully returned lunar samples from the far side of the moon, an unprecedented achievement that has prompted experts to reconsider the United States’ stance on excluding China from space projects. The lunar samples are expected to provide vital insights into the origins of the solar system and the potential utilisation of lunar resources. This could open up opportunities for collaboration between the US and China, particularly in the advancement of artificial intelligence technologies, according to Sinotalks, a Silicon Valley-based think tank.

Before the Chang’e 6 mission, China released the world’s first high-definition lunar geologic atlas to aid in the identification of potential sites for a lunar station. The knowledge gained from the samples returned by Chang’e 6 will further enrich this atlas, bringing the establishment of a lunar station closer to reality.

The creation of a lunar station could allow for more effective studies on the moon’s resources and evolution, potentially leading to the unearthing of new lunar resources that could be used in the development of powerful AI hardware. Additionally, innovative AI applications could be tested at the lunar station under conditions not available on Earth.

Despite the potential for cooperation, ongoing tensions between the two nations pose a significant obstacle. Since 2011, the US has excluded China from NASA projects and has increased restrictions to limit China’s access to US-developed technologies. However, Sinotalks argues that this approach may be counterproductive as it also prevents US participation in China’s space missions.

US scientists have missed out on opportunities for moon-related research due to these restrictions, unlike their counterparts from France, Italy, and Sweden who have participated in research supported by the Chang’e 6 mission. Sinotalks has questioned the effectiveness of these restrictions in hindering China’s AI development, considering China’s continued progress in space exploration.

The lunar samples brought back by the Chang’e 6 mission are 1 billion years older than those returned by the US and former Soviet Union, presenting China with an opportunity to extend an olive branch to the US by inviting its scientists to study the new samples. This could potentially usher in a new era of “moon diplomacy”, fostering international cooperation in space exploration.

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