Study Buddy: China speeds up moon base plan with Chang’e 8 mission in space race against the US

  • As Nasa’s Artemis programme aims to have astronauts remain on the moon, China will try to do the same with its lunar mission – but more efficiently
  • Use our pre-reading activity, comprehension questions, vocabulary practice and writing prompt to test your understanding of the article
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The new job for China’s Chang’e 8 moon landing mission is to put an unmanned research station on the surface of the moon. Photo: Shutterstock

1. Pre-reading questions

  1. Why do you think some countries are willing to spend so much money to establish a presence on the moon?

  2. Do you care whether your country is a leader in the space race?

  3. Do you think it is worth spending tens of billions of dollars to set up a moon colony?

2. Comprehension

Read the following text, and answer questions 1-18.

Adapted from “China speeds up moon base plan in space race against the US” by Stephen Chen, South China Morning Post, 29 Dec 2021.

Questions (39 marks)

1. In line 8, what does “the change of plan” refer to?

2. In line 10, what does “its” refer to?

3. Decide whether the following statements are True, False, or the information is Not Given in paragraphs 1 to 3. Blacken ONE circle only for each statement. (5 marks)
(i) The lunar research base had previously been scheduled to be set up in 2019.
(ii) The original purpose of the research base was to carry out scientific experiments such as detecting moonquakes.
(iii) The focus of the new plan is the harmonious utilisation of lunar resources.
(iv) There has been no fundamental change in China’s moon programme.
(v) China perceived the recent move by the US as a menace.

4. Find a word in paragraphs 1 to 2 that has a similar meaning to each word given below. (4 marks)
(i) goal
(ii) moon
(iii) particulars
(iv) emphasised

5. In line 18, what does “its” refer to?

6. Complete the summary below by using ONE word taken from paragraphs 4 and 5 to fill each blank. Your answers must be grammatically correct. (5 marks)
Soon after the Chang’e 5 mission returned to (i) _______________ , a Chinese official accused the United States of promoting a (ii) _______________ to allow governments or private companies to forbid the entry of outsiders into parts of the moon, although the UN’s Moon Agreement states that the moon should be owned in (iii) _______________ by all nations. The new US programme plans to have astronauts (iv) _______________ on the moon and construct large-scale facilities on its surface and in its (v) _______________.

7. In line 22, what does “there” refer to?

8. According to paragraph 6, …
A. China has signed the Artemis Accords.
B. the Artemis Accords would allow for private property on the moon.
C. the US and Nasa have implemented the Artemis Accords.
D. a heritage site is property on the moon that a government or company has owned for a long time.

9. What is the purpose of the “forward-looking measures” mentioned in Zhang’s message in Aerospace Shanghai?

10. According to paragraph 8, China intends to counter the Artemis programme by ...
A. naming their programme after the Chinese lunar goddess.
B. building a facility outside the moon’s orbit.
C. taking advantage of Artemis’ flaws.
D. delaying the building of a highly expensive space station until 2025.

11. According to paragraph 9, why would it be much cheaper for China to have its astronauts stay on the moon than it would be for the US?

12. In line 42, what does “its” refer to?

13. In paragraph 10, what are three strategies China will use to counter the US territorial claims? (3 marks)

14. In line 48, what does “These sites” refer to?

15. According to paragraph 11, what did Chinese scientists learn from the latest lunar samples?

16. According to paragraph 12, what are two challenges that China’s lunar programme faces and two potential solutions? (4 marks)

17. According to paragraph 13, what are two benefits of China’s hypersonic plane? (2 marks)

18. Match the main points (A–F) with one of the corresponding paragraphs on the left. Write the correct letter on the line next to the paragraph number. ONE main point is not used. (5 marks)

3. Vocabulary

  • aristocrat (n) (line 16) – a member of the ruling class or the highest social class

  • astronaut (n) (line 21) – someone who travels into space

  • chamber (n) (line 47) – a space underground that usually has only one opening

  • deploy (vb) (line 29) – use something effectively for a specific purpose

  • hypersonic (adj) (line 55) – a hypersonic speed is one over five times the speed of sound

  • lunar (adj) (line 3) – related to the moon

  • orbit (n, vb) (line 22) – (n) a circular path that a planet, moon, spacecraft, etc. makes around another planet, star, moon, etc.

  • payload (n) (line 54) – what a vehicle carries

  • protocol (n) (line 26) – a system of rules and acceptable behaviour usually between governments

  • prototype (n) (line 58) – the first design or example of something

Vocabulary Quiz: Place one word from the box in each blank, using the correct form of the word.

  1. He imagined a journey to the moon in which space travellers stand on the __________________ surface and observe the lovely planet Earth rotating slowly in the sky above.

  2. She __________________ the solution for her problem with the help of her team.

  3. The __________________ for the new car is ready for you to look at, though it is not safe to drive yet because we still need to test some of the components.

  4. The Kyoto __________________, signed in 1997, required countries to start reducing their carbon emissions.

  5. We ventured into an underground __________________ in search of a chest of gold rumoured to have been buried here centuries ago.

  6. __________________ vehicles fly faster than five times the speed of sound and can enable faster access to space.

  7. The Earth __________________ the sun, travelling at an average speed of 107,200 kilometres per hour.

  8. In fact, gravity on the moon is only one-sixth that of Earth, so a fully-suited male __________________ typically weighs around 60 pounds on the moon.

  9. Centuries ago, silk fabric was available only to royalty and __________________.

  10. The truck is carrying a __________________ of 20,000kg.

4. Writing

Write about 300 words for the following question.

The US-drafted Artemis Accords are intended to be the foundation for US space agency Nasa to start mining the moon, and it opens up mining to private companies, too. For example, the moon may contain large amounts of helium-3, which could potentially be used in nuclear power plants and is not radioactive. Experts believe that three tablespoons of this substance could replace 5,000 tonnes of coal. The Artemis Accords have been signed by more than 20 countries. China and Russia oppose the accords and are promoting a project open to all countries, called the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), which will serve as a comprehensive base for scientific experiments.

Do you think the Artemis Accord approach to lunar exploration is better, or is the ILRS approach better?

Write an argumentative essay, supporting your opinion with reasons. Write about 300 words. Give your article a title.

Earthrise over the moon. China aims to set up a lunar research base sooner than planned. Photo: AFP/Nasa


1. Pre-reading sample responses

1. Why do you think some countries are willing to spend so much money to establish a presence on the moon?
I think one big reason is global prestige. Countries that have the most advanced space programmes are usually seen as the most technologically advanced. Also, countries that have lunar programmes often realise there are many side benefits from their investment such as advanced technology that can be used for industry, scientific research and the military.

2. Do you care whether your country is a leader in the space race?
Yes, I feel a sense of pride when I see China’s progress in its space programme, but if you asked me what I would want my family’s tax dollars to be spent on – housing for the poor or a lunar station – I would choose housing.

3. Do you think it is worth spending tens of billions of dollars to set up a moon colony?
Yes, if a country can afford it. A moon programme attracts world-class scientists, who may make other discoveries as they conduct research and develop new technology for moon colonies. Countries that have space programmes are regarded as technology leaders, and it benefits all of their technology companies.

2. Comprehension (39 marks)

  1. changing from the original plan to carry out scientific experiments on the moon to the new plan of putting an unmanned research station on the moon’s surface

  2. China’s moon programme / China’s lunar programme

  3. (i) F; (ii) NG; (iii) T; (iv) F; (v) T

  4. (i) target / job / plan / purpose; (ii) lunar; (iii) details; (iv) stressed

  5. (US space agency) Nasa’s

  6. (i) Earth; (ii) programme / campaign / movement; (iii) common; (iv) remain; (v) orbit

  7. the moon

  8. B

  9. The purpose of the plan is to counter the United States’ plans to implement its Artemis programme and to allow safety zones on the moon that forbid the entry of others.

  10. C

  11. China would put a nuclear-powered research station on the moon, whereas the US would need to build an expensive orbiting “gateway”.

  12. the mobile station’s / the moon base on wheels’

  13. (i) deploy a mobile station / deploy a moon base on wheels; (ii) use artificial intelligence technology; (iii) explore caves (for permanent settlements)

  14. (more than 10) holes on the moon

  15. There had been more volcanic activity than previously estimated

  16. (i) energy supply; (ii) transport capacity; (iii) (1-megawatt) nuclear reactor for space missions; (iv) super-heavy rocket

  17. (i) low cost; (ii) can reach orbit and land at an airport

  18. (i) E; (ii) F; (iii) B; (iv) A; (v) D

3. Vocabulary (10 marks)

1. lunar
2. deployed
3. prototype
4. Protocol
5. chamber
6. Hypersonic
7. orbits
8. astronaut
9. aristocrats
10. payload

4. Writing – sample answer (346 words)

The ILRS approach to moon exploration

Compared with the Artemis Accords, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) approach to lunar exploration is better because of its focus on shared scientific research. ILRS can create technology through collaboration, benefit more people, and ensure that individual countries or companies do not control the moon’s resources.

Firstly, the ILRS provides the opportunity for different groups to work together on scientific research, which can create technology more quickly. While the Artemis Accords allow governments or private companies to protect their facilities or “heritage sites” by setting up safety zones that forbid the entry of others, the ILRS, though it is being developed by China and Russia, is open to all countries. Under the Artemis Accords, if one company sets up a safety zone around an area with important elements for science, other groups cannot access it.

Second, the ILRS can benefit all people. Under the Artemis Accords, if one country or company discovers a resource that could be beneficial for all of humanity, they could potentially hoard it from others. For example, if a company creates a safety zone around an area with helium-3 and successfully develops a way to use it for energy, it could charge high prices to those who want to use it. With how dire Earth’s climate crisis is, we need to share anything that could help decrease reliance on fossil fuels, and ILRS is the way to do this.

Some people may argue the Artemis Accords’ safety zones allow for competition to drive companies and governments to develop technology and research from which they can reap rewards. However, the moon should not be the place for people to just make money. If we treat it this way, it could go the way of Earth’s natural resources – depleted so only a few groups can profit. On a base like ILRS, I hope research would be done in a transparent manner, with science as the focus, not moneymaking schemes.

A shared research base like ILRS is better than the protocols laid out in the Artemis Accords because it provides a more equal playing field for everyone.

Sponsored by The Hong Kong Jockey Club

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