When an out-of-control Chinese booster rocket crashed into the Indian Ocean earlier this month, space experts were confused how an advanced space agency that just landed a rover on Mars could be so “negligent” as to refuse to install basic propulsion systems to guide the rocket’s safe return to Earth.
The current best guess? As long as the rocket wasn’t coming back to hit China, Chinese officials viewed the risk of hitting a population center low enough that it would be better off paying “compensation” for any damages rather than use any more limited space-borne fuel. After all, the fuel burned in a controlled landing would necessitate an earlier refueling of the rocket’s payload, the first stage of China’s first long-term space station — China’s gateway to the moon and beyond.
So why is China rushing? The grand ambition of China’s spacefaring operational timetable demands it can’t spare even a single launch for an extra refueling operation. China plans