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After the successful landing of the Chang’e-4 lunar probe on the far side of the moon on Jan 3, Ch
ina is planning to launch Chang’e-5, a more advanced lunar probe, later this year to collect samples from the moon.
The Chang’e-4 mission, the first such mission in history, was an important m
ilestone in the lunar exploration program of not only China but also the wo
rld. About 50 years ago, the United States’ Apollo 11 landed the first humans on the moon, marking a critical step in spa
ce exploration. But no human has landed on the moon after 1972. Since Apollo 11, according to the US, effectively en
ded its space race with the Soviet Union, the Americans abandoned all ambitions to further explore space.
“Project Apollo” did not prompt other countries to join the space race because no country ot
her than the US and the Soviet Union could afford the huge costs. Even the US found it extremely difficult to s
ustain the project. For example, the cost of launching the Saturn V rocket, the carrier of Apollo 11 in 1969, was nearly $40
0 million, almost equal to the total budget of the US National Science Foundation that year.