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

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

BEIJING:

China vowed yesterday 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.—AP

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