China plans to land probes on far side of moon and Mars by 2020
BEIJING // China vowed to speed up the development of its space industry on Tuesday as it set out plans to become the first country to soft land a probe on the far side of the moon, by around 2018, and launch its first Mars probe by 2020.
A soft landing refers to a landing in which the vehicle – including anything on board – is not damaged or destroyed in the process.
“To explore the vast cosmos, develop the space industry and build China into a space power is a dream we pursue unremittingly,” said a white paper setting out the country’s space strategy for the next five years.
It said China aims to use space for peaceful purposes – to guarantee national security and to carry out cutting-edge scientific research.
The paper, released by the information office of China’s cabinet, points to the growing ambitions of Beijing’s already rapidly advancing space programme. China places great emphasis on the development of its space industry and sees it as a symbol of national prestige which will raise the country’s standing in the world. Although the white paper doesn’t mention it, China’s eventual goal is to land an astronaut on the moon.
While Russia and the United States have more experience in manned space travel, China’s military-backed programme has made steady progress in a comparatively short time.
Since China conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, it has staged a spacewalk and landed a rover on the moon in 2013 – the first time humans had soft landed anything on the moon since the 1970s.
Last month, two astronauts returned from a month-long stay aboard China’s Tiangong 2 experimental space station, the country’s sixth and longest crewed mission. A fully functioning, permanently crewed space station is on course to begin operations six years from now and is slated to run for at least a decade.
The white paper reiterated China’s plans to launch its first Mars probe by 2020, saying it would explore and bring back samples from the red planet, explore the Jupiter system and “conduct research into major scientific questions such as the origin and evolution of the solar system, and search for extraterrestrial life”.
The paper says the Chang’e-4 lunar probe will help shed light on the formation and evolution of the moon.
He Qisong, a space security expert at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said achieving mankind’s first soft landing on the far side of the moon was a newly stated goal. It indicates that China has mastered the underlying technology needed to land on a specific area of the lunar surface, he added.
“China never talks big and says something it’s unable to achieve,” he said.
* Associated Press
Updated: December 27, 2016 04:00 AM