China is planning to land its first crewed mission on the Moon before 2030, the country’s top agency for manned space missions said on Monday.
Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency, said the country has entered into the lunar landing phase of its manned mission to explore the moon, according to a report by state-run CGTN.
China will also launch three astronauts, or taikonauts, to its now fully operational space station on Tuesday, one of whom will be its first ever civilian to go to space.
The developments follow China’s five-year plan, revealed last month, to start building a lunar base by 2028. The country will use lunar soil and 3D printing technology to build the base, top Chinese scientists have said.
The moves are part of China’s ongoing race with the US to reach the moon. US space agency NASA is planning to launch the Artemis III mission, its first crewed moon landing mission in more than half a century, by 2025 or 2026.
The world’s third largest economy, Japan, meanwhile, is aiming to put its astronaut on the moon by the late 2020s.
Lunar landing ambitions
CMSA’s Liu said China is planning to make a “short stay” on the moon and undertake a “human-robotic joint exploration” of its surface, according to a report by the Associated Press.
“We have a complete near-Earth human space station and human round-trip transportation system,” the agency quoted Liu as saying. The country’s plan to send two yearly crewed missions to space is “sufficient for carrying out our objectives,” he added.
Among other objectives of the mission was to form “an independent capability of manned lunar exploration,” Liu told CGTN.
First Chinese civilian in space
On Tuesday, China’s Shenzhou-16 spacecraft will lift off atop a Long March 2F rocket, in the fifth manned mission since 2021 to its Tiangong space station.
The mission is part of a crew rotation, with the fresh crew carrying the first Chinese civilian, Gui Haichao, to space.
A professor from Beijing-based Beihang University, 36-year-old Gui will join the crew as a payload specialist. Unlike all former Chinese astronauts he is the first crew member who is not a member of Chinese military, the People’s Liberation Army.
China developed its own space station after being denied access to the International Space Station, primarily over US concerns about close ties between China’s space programs and the PLA.
Two of the other crew members — Jing Haipeng and Zhu Yangzhu — are part of the astronaut brigade of the People’s Liberation Army.
56-year-old Jing will have flown more missions than any previous Chinese astronaut with his launch on Tuesday.
- Vishakha Saxena, with inputs from Reuters