At the 2017 Global Space Exploration Conference (GLEX) in Beijing on Tuesday, China revealed some big plans for the future of space exploration, including the landing site for the Chang’e 5 probe and plans to expand international cooperation in space. Not to mention reports of someday soonish sending a Chinese man/woman to the moon.
Liu Jizhong, the director of China’s Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center of China National Space Administration (CNSA), announced at the conference that the lunar probe Chang’e 5 will land in the Mons Rumker region, on a volcanic formation located on the near side of the moon.
The probe will bring moon samples back to earth by the end of the year, according to a space official quoted by Reuters.
The Chang’e 5 is the latest in a series of lunar probes that have changed the game for China’s space exploration program. Liu mentioned that its predecessor, the Chang’e 4, will launch in 2018 and will be the first probe ever to land on the dark side of the moon. The Chang’e 3 launched in 2013 and made the first lunar “soft landing” since 1976, transmitting back some gorgeous true color photos of the moon.
Liu spoke to the conference about CNSA’s long term goals.
“China is planning and designing its future lunar exploration program. We will focus on the south pole region of the moon. The research on water and the permanent shadow area of the lunar south pole region will bring greater scientific discoveries,” he said, according to Xinhua.
While space exploration has been a source of competition between nations in the past, Liu made it clear that China wants to make it an international effort. He recognized the four countries (the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Saudi Arabia) who collaborated with China on the Chang’e 4.
Liu also wants to see Chinese involvement on a host of other projects, like the construction of an international moon village, a project proposed by the European Space Agency (ESA).
But most intriguingly, state media cites a senior space official who says that China will send a manned mission to the moon in the coming years. According to Reuters, the preparations for this mission are still in the early stages, but Yang Liwei, the first Chinese man to go to space, says that approval and funding will not take long.
China spends around $2 billion per year on its space program, but if the 2017 GLEX conference is any indicator, China’s involvement in space will only grow in the future.
By Caroline Roy
[Images via China Academy of Sciences]
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