China plans moon exploration
BEIJING: China plans to explore the moon after it achieves its immediate target of sending a person into space, state newspapers said on Sunday.
In the first phase of lunar exploration, a satellite would be launched to take three-dimensional pictures of the moon’s surface, the newspapers said.
The satellite launched was expected in three years, the Beijing Youth Daily said.
“Following the manned space programme, the next target for China’s space endeavour is to explore the moon,” the China Youth Daily quoted Luan Enjie, head of the State Space Administration, as saying.
China has sent four empty space capsules into orbit as tests for its planned launch this year of a manned craft, which would make it the third country to put people into space.
The China Youth Daily said that in a second phase of lunar exploration a probe would land on the moon and return to the Earth after taking samples in the final phase.
The newspapers did not say how much the programme would cost. Chinese scientists say launching the lunar probe would edge China a step closer towards landing a person on the moon.
State media have reported plans for China’s own space station on the moon and even a trip to Mars.
The Soviet Union became the first country to put a man in orbit when it sent Yuri Gagarin into a single loop around the planet in 1961. A year later, John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth.
No one has been on the moon since the U.S. Apollo programme ended with the Apollo XVII mission in 1972. China said last month it would press on with its manned spaceflight plans even after the destruction of the U.S. space shuttle Columbia and the death of the seven astronauts on board. —Reuters