China plans to land probes on far side of moon, Mars by 2020

In this photo taken Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016, the supermoon rises over a logo for AVIC, or Aviation Industry Corp, a state owned enterprise involved in China’s manned space mission in Beijing. China vowed Tuesday, Dec 27, 2016 to speed up the development of its space industry as it set out its plans to become the first country to soft land a probe on the far side of the moon, around 2018, and launch its first Mars probe by 2020. (Ng Han Guan/Associated Press)

BEIJING — China vowed Tuesday to speed up the development of its space industry as it set out its 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.

“To explore the vast cosmos, develop the space industry and build China into a space power is a dream we pursue unremittingly,” read a white paper setting out the country’s space strategy for the next five years. It says China aims to use space for peaceful purposes and to guarantee national security, and to carry out cutting-edge scientific research.

The white paper, released by the information office of China’s Cabinet, points to the growing ambitions of China’s already rapidly advancing space program. China places great emphasis on the development of its space industry, seen as a symbol of national prestige that 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 program 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 Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said that achieving mankind’s first soft landing on the far side of the moon is 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.


China says they will launch first Mars probe by 2020

BEIJING -- China vowed Tuesday to speed up the development of its space industry as it set out its plans to become the first country to soft land a probe on the far side of the moon, around 2018, and launch its first Mars probe by 2020.

“To explore the vast cosmos, develop the space industry and build China into a space power is a dream we pursue unremittingly,” read a white paper setting out the country’s space strategy for the next five years. It says China aims to use space for peaceful purposes and to guarantee national security, and to carry out cutting edge scientific research.

The white paper released by the information office of China’s Cabinet points to the growing ambitions of China’s already rapidly advancing space program. Although the white paper doesn’t mention it, China’s eventual goal is the symbolic feat of landing an astronaut on the moon.

While Russia and the United States have more experience in manned space travel, China’s military-backed program 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 this 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.


China lays out plans to put probe on moon’s far side in 2018 – and on Mars in 2020

China’s latest white paper on space exploration confirms the country’s plans to send a rover to the moon’s far side in 2018 and put a rover on Mars in 2020.

Today’s white paper, released by the State Council Information Office, says the Chang’e 4 mission will “conduct in-situ and roving detection and relay communications at Earth-moon L2 point” in 2018, the official China Daily newspaper reported.

In 2012, NASA’s Grail probes crash-landed on the moon’s far side – the so-called “dark side” that never faces Earth. However, no spacecraft has made a soft landing on the moon’s normally hidden half. Communicating with such a spacecraft would require using a relay satellite, such as the one that China plans to send to the L2 gravitational balance point beyond the moon for Chang’e 4.

Chang’e is the name of the mythological Chinese moon goddess, and the name has been used for China’s three previous lunar missions as well. The most recent mission in the series, Chang’e 3, sent a lander and the Yutu rover to the moon’s near side in 2013.

Yet another robotic spacecraft, Chang’e 5, is being prepared to make a lunar landing, collect samples and send them back to Earth. The white paper says Chang’e 5 will be launched by the end of 2017. Chinese space officials had originally envisioned Chang’e 4 as a backup to Chang’e 3, but the spacecraft was repurposed for the far-side mission. As a result, 5 is due to come before 4.

The aim of the Chang’e program is to study the geology of the moon, look for resources that the moon could offer for further exploration – and not incidentally, to demonstrate China’s technological prowess.

Over the next five years, China plans to move ahead with efforts to develop new lines of launch vehicles. “Endeavors will be made to research key technologies and further study the plans for developing heavy-lift launch vehicles,” according to the white paper, which is titled “China’s Space Activities in 2016.”

“The white paper sets out our vision of China as a space power, independently researching, innovating, discovering and training specialist personnel,” China Daily quoted Wu Yanhua, deputy chief of China’s National Space Administration, as saying during a news conference.

In addition to the heavy-lift rockets, China will look into building non-polluting medium-lift rockets and a reusable transportation system for reaching low Earth orbit. The country plans to complete deployment of its 35-satellite BeiDou constellation for global navigation by 2020, and launch a lander and a rover to Mars in that year.

Chinese space officials have previously said that a full-fledged space station known as Tiangong 3 would be put into orbit in the 2020s, and that Beijing’s space program could put astronauts on the moon by the mid-2030s. However, in a report from UPI, Wu said the program will require private investment.

“After six decades of development, government investment alone is not enough to let China’s aerospace program to advance technological progress and benefit the economy and society,” UPI quoted Wu as saying.

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