China began operations one year ago at a space mission control center in Patagonia that helped it make history by landing a probe on the far side of the Moon on Jan 3, 2019.
For China, the scientific payoff of the lunar mission is huge. Being in the shadow of the Moon allows stray radio signals from Earth to be blocked. On the far side of the Moon, the view of the radio universe is incomparable. The two-part Chang’e 4 mission began with the launch in May 2018 of a relay satellite stationed behind the Moon that provides a communication link for the Yutu-2 rover. The mission is
named after the Chinese Moon goddess.
Argentina signed a 50-year contract in Apr 2014 for China’s Satellite Launch and Tracking Control General (CLTC) in southern Neuquén province. A large billboard in English signals the entrance to the center.
Argentine officials say China has agreed not to use the base for military purposes, but experts contend that the technology on it has many strategic uses.
The New York Times describes the base as one of the most striking symbols of Beijing’s long push to transform Latin America and shape its future for generations to come. The way the base was negotiated – in secret, at a time when Argentina desperately needed investment – and concerns that it could enhance China’s intelligence gathering capabilities in the hemisphere have set off a debate in the country about the risks and benefits of being pulled into China’s orbit.
Date written/update: 2019-01-30