Earlier on Saturday morning, China launched the Chang's 4-space robot spacecraft for the moon. If all goes well, it will be the first spacecraft in history to soft-land on the far side of the moon, probably in early January. This was a huge achievement for China and for the history of placement. But China seems remarkably cow about discussing it.
For once, it does not pay China to advertise its strength in a civilian run-off.
China has always been a bit low-key in discussing its location program, but sometimes pulls the stops for high-profile missions. When astronauts launched on Shenzhen spacecraft, or other soubs are sent to the moon, China will typically stage cover media coverage through their own channels.
China is clamping down on media coverage of sensitive topics in recent times, including space flight, as a result of torture government policies. But even so, the coverage of the Chang # 4 launch is unusually silent.
To be beautiful, China has announced the launch of Xinhua soon after liftoff. But the special web portals and multimedia coverage that China has rolled out for other missions never appeared. There was also no TV coverage of the launch. Advertising in those days, leading up to the launch was essentially gone. Kgton, China's international television network, placed coverage of other events well ahead of the Moon Mission.
The Chang # 4 has the potential to generate a huge interest and respect for China, and China has used its site as a soft power tool for years. Why, is the coverage so tight this time?
The mission is excellent, but the timing is inconvenient. China is now experiencing a sequence of interconnected economic and strategic challenges that have filled global headlines for months. Most famous is the Narrow Trade War with America. But China is also embroiled in disputes over intellectual property and the treatment of scientists. All these factors are all in place, which is a high-profile demonstration of a country's science, technology, industry and economic strength.
For once, it does not pay China to advertise its strength in a civilian run-off. Coverage of military satellite launches is even tighter, but this is true for any nation. A mission to go where no space mission is gone before should have a higher profile. But actions in place are always determined by actions on earth.