Wed, Mar 24, 2004
Manned Missions Also Planned
Move over NASA, you've
got competition in the Lunar exploration program. China announced
that it plans to launch its first moon rover in 2012 as part of its
new ambitious space exploration program. While void of any Neil
Armstrong wannabes, the spacecraft's main purpose will be to
provide information on finding a suitable location to set up a
moonbase, the Beijing Youth Daily newspaper said Sunday, citing
Ouyang Ziyuan, lead scientist of the country's lunar probe
The rover -- part of the three-phase lunar probe program, also
called "Chang'e," after a fairy in Chinese folklore who flies to
the moon -- would carry a camera, a telescope and seismological
gear to register quake activity on the moon, the report said.
This is no space fantasy, as the first phase is already under
way, with Chinese scientists building a two-ton lunar probe that is
to be launched by 2007 and orbit the moon for at least 12 months.
Once launched, the craft will take three-dimensional lunar images,
measure the density of the moon's soil and explore its environment.
The satellite launch is to be followed by a moon landing by an
unmanned vehicle by 2010 and soil sample collection by 2020, Xinhua
said. China's top space official has also said the country wants to
land a human on the moon that same year.
So, how much will this new space initiative cost the Chinese
government? The Xinhua News Agency put the price tag of the first
phase at a cool $170 million.
The new public disclosure of the Chinese program comes after the
success of its landmark manned space launch last October, China has
raised the profile of its once-secret, military-linked space
program and regularly releases information about plans for further
exploration. It is now the third country in the world to
successfully accomplish manned spaceflight.
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