Chinese officials on Wednesday unveiled new details about their plans for a manned lunar mission, as China attempts to become only the second nation to put citizens on the moon.
Zhang Hailian, deputy chief engineer with the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), revealed the preliminary plan at an aerospace summit in the city of Wuhan on Wednesday, according to state-run news agency Xinhua.
The mission, expected to take place before 2030, is part of a project to establish a lunar research station. It will investigate how best to build the facility, and carry out moon exploration tasks and other experiments, Zhang said.
Two launch vehicles will send a moon surface lander and manned spacecraft into lunar orbit, before they dock with each other, according to state-run Global Times. After docking, the Chinese astronauts on board the spacecraft will enter the lander, which is used to descend to the moon’s surface.
While on the moon, they will collect samples and carry out “scientific exploration,” before leaving on the lander and reuniting with the spacecraft waiting in orbit – which will take them home to Earth, Global Times reported.
To prepare for the mission, Chinese researchers are busy developing all the necessary equipment including moon suits, manned lunar rovers, manned spaceships and moon landers, Xinhua reported.
The state media reports did not say how many astronauts China plans to send to the moon.
The lunar mission is the latest development in China’s push to advance its space program, which has seen several breakthrough moments in recent years.
China was late to the space race – it didn’t send its first satellite into orbit until 1970, by which time the United States had already landed an astronaut on the moon – but Beijing has been catching up fast.
In 2013, China successfully landed a rover on the moon, becoming only the third country to do so. At the time, Chinese leader Xi Jinping said “the space dream is part of the dream to make China stronger.”
Under Xi’s leadership, China has spent billions on its ambitious space program. While there are no official public figures on Beijing’s investment in space exploration, consulting firm Euroconsult estimated it to be about $5.8 billion in 2019.
That year, China sent a rover to the far side of the moon – a historic first. Then in 2020, it became only the third country to successfully collect rock samples from the moon.
China has also spent the past few years building its own Tiangong space station, which was completed in November. The station is only the second operational orbital outpost, alongside the International Space Station (ISS) – which Chinese astronauts have long been excluded from due to US political objections and legislative restrictions.
But the ISS is expected to end operations in 2030 – which could leave Tiangong the only outpost left. China has sought to open up its station to collaboration with international partners, including by hosting experiments from other countries.
Source : CNN