If the Americans succeed in a space mission, the head of Russia's Roscosmos space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, likes to react with malicious jokes.

For example, in February, when a NASA probe landed successfully on Mars.

Rogozin posted a picture on Twitter of Martians holding a sign that read: "Yankees go home!" And when the United States imposed sanctions on Russian space companies among others in 2014, Rogozin wrote that the Americans should better their astronauts in the future send to the International Space Station on a trampoline than with Russian Soyuz rockets.

Hendrik Ankenbrand

Business correspondent for China based in Shanghai.

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Katharina Wagner

Business correspondent for Russia and the CIS based in Moscow.

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Rogozin reacted noticeably differently when China successfully landed a probe on Mars for the first time in mid-May: He politely congratulated him on this “great success”. Russia has chosen China as its preferred partner because of its poor relations with the West. In the space sector, too, Beijing should now ensure that Moscow does not completely lose touch. While Americans like Jeff Bezos now fly into space privately, Russia is a shadow of earlier days in this regard.

When the Soviets sent the first artificial earth satellite into space with the Sputnik in 1957, Mao was planning his catastrophic economic campaign “Big Leap Forward” in Beijing, which would come to an end four years later, with an estimated 45 million deaths from starvation. The People's Republic, whose economy was smaller than that of most countries in Africa, had no money for space travel. State leader Mao said that China also wanted to build a satellite, but quickly realized "that we cannot even shoot a potato into space".

Today China is a power in space.

Before the pompous celebration of the Communist Party's centenary on July 1, President Xi Jinping congratulated three astronauts who the party had sent to China's first own space station in time to prove their success.

A few weeks earlier, China had landed its own rover on Mars.

A spaceship manned by astronauts is also expected to arrive there in 2033 and will set up a base station on the Red Planet.

China on the way to becoming the leading space nation

While the American NASA has to fight hard with Congress to get at least part of the money it wants for further missions, more and more billions are flowing into the state space program in China. With the exception of the Americans, no other country invested so much in conquering space, at just under $ 9 billion last year. It is true that the Chinese budget is still just a fifth of the amount America is investing in space travel. Given Xi's stipulation that China should become a “leading space nation”, scientists there should soon have significantly more money at their disposal.

When working with the Russians, China is particularly interested in their wealth of experience in space travel. Beijing is well aware that Moscow's cosmos program, which was glorious during the Soviet era, has been deeply in crisis for years. Russia does not even take part in the current international competitions in space, such as the question of who will transport tourists into space first. Even the earlier achievements are now out of date or outdated: the Russian module of the International Space Station (ISS), which was first launched into space in 1998, has cracks in the metal and can no longer be repaired, which is why Russia has announced that the space station will start in 2025 not wanting to use it anymore.