Samples collected by a Chinese probe on its recent visit to the moon will be sent to the hometown of late communist dictator Mao Zedong to “commemorate the leader and his passion for space exploration,” state media reported Thursday.
The state propaganda outlet Global Times cited an announcement from the China National Space Administration (CNSA) that moon dirt obtained by the Chang’e-5 probe will be preserved in Mao’s hometown of Shaoshan, Hunan province, as a tribute to the late mass murderer.
Mao reportedly took an interest in space exploration as tens of millions of his countrymen starved to death under his rule, once declaring: “We can clasp the moon in the Ninth Heaven and seize turtles deep down in the Five Seas.”
According to the Deputy Director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center of the CNSA, Pei Zhaoyu, Hunan was also seen as an ideal location because of its “favorable geological conditions for disaster recovery and backup.”
The announcement came hours after the Chang’e-5 probe allegedly landed back on the snow in Inner Mongolia following a 23-day trip to the moon in which it collected various samples of soil and rocks. While there, the probe unfurled the Chinese communist flag, a point of pride for Beijing. Its landing was live-streamed on Weibo, a social media network controlled by the Communist Party.
CNSA deputy head Wu Yanhua explained that the moon samples will be used for purposes other than honoring Mao.
“The first group [of samples] will be sent to scientific labs to use in research, while the other two will be displayed in national museums for the public’s education and shared with the international community in accordance with lunar data management regulations,” the Times noted. “They could even be given as special gifts to countries that work closely with China on aerospace matters. ”
As part of its long-term plan to become the world’s leading superpower, China has invested billions in space programs over the past two decades. The investments also tie into the country’s aggressive military ambitions, posing a future threat to U.S. national security.
“The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is executing a long-term strategy to exploit U.S. technology, talent, and capital to build up its military space and counter space programs and advance its strategic interests at the expense of the United States,” the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission noted in its report this year.
“China’s zero-sum pursuit of space superiority harms U.S. economic competitiveness, weakens U.S. military advantages, and undermines strategic stability,” explained the report’s summary. “In short, it represents a threat to U.S. national security. Barring significant action to counter China’s space-related programs and activities of concern, it is likely that this strategic competitor’s efforts will continue to adversely affect U.S. interests.”