As the first soft landing on the far side of the Moon in history, the mission was a coup for the Chinese space program.
But reporting by Bloomberg suggests that the Chinese government could have an ulterior motive: scoping out whether the Moon contains an isotope the nation could used to fuel interplanetary missions.
The fuel in question is helium-3, the non-radioactive isotope featured in the 2009 Duncan Jones film Moon. Lunar regolith may be rich in helium-3, which could theoretically be a compelling source of fusion energy – or even power next-generation fusion rockets.
That’s all far in the future, but that doesn’t mean space pioneers in China don’t have their eyes on the prize.
“China thinks in decades,” Clive Neal, a lunar expert at the University of Notre Dame, told Bloomberg.
“The US thinks in presidential terms.”