Sally Ride

A growing competition: China and the U.S. space program, year by year

A growing competition: China and the U.S. space program, year by year

The first true rocket was fired by China in 1232, during a war with the Mongols. But by the time the Soviet Union and the United States pioneered modern space exploration in the 1950s and ’60s, China was largely out of the game. When the United States landed a man on the moon almost half a century ago, China was mired in political turmoil. The country didn’t send an astronaut into space until 2003.

But now it’s catching up.

Last year, for the first time, China launched more rockets than Russia. The nation also embarked on its longest crewed mission and completed the world’s largest radio telescope. It plans to land a rover on the far side of the moon next year, the first for...

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