China to send astronauts to Moon by 2030 as space race intensifies

PTI, May 29, 2023, 5:23 PM IST

Representative Image (Source: Pixabay)

Beijing: China on Monday announced plans to send a manned mission to the moon by 2030 for lunar scientific exploration, amid its deepening space race with the West.

The announcement was made by Lin Xiqiang, Deputy Director of the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), as China is preparing to send a third set of astronauts to its space station on Tuesday.

Li told the media at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in Inner Mongolia ahead of the launch of the spacecraft that takes the three astronauts to the space station called Tiangong that China has recently initiated under the lunar landing phase of its manned lunar exploration programme.

The overall goal is to achieve China’s first manned landing on the moon by 2030 and carry out lunar scientific exploration and related technological experiments, he was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

China’s manned lunar mission came as the US space agency NASA aims to send a second manned mission to the moon by 2025 to explore the south pole for frozen water.

For its part, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has announced plans to launch its ambitious Chandrayaan-3 mission aimed at demonstrating critical technologies to land the spacecraft on the south pole.

Chandrayaan-3 mission carries scientific instruments to study the thermo-physical properties of the lunar regolith, lunar seismicity, lunar surface plasma environment and elemental composition in the vicinity of the landing site.

China in the past successfully launched uncrewed missions to the moon which included a rover. China has also sent a rover to Mars.

According to Lin, the goal of China’s moon mission also includes mastering the key technologies such as earth-moon manned roundtrip, lunar surface short-term stay, human-robot joint exploration, accomplishing multiple tasks of landing, roving, sampling, researching, returning, and forming an independent capability of manned lunar exploration.

In 2021, China and Russia announced plans to set up an International Lunar Research Station.

Russian space agency Roscosmos said in March 2021 that it has signed an agreement with China’s National Space Administration to develop research facilities on the surface of the moon, in orbit or both.

Lin said China’s manned lunar landing will promote the leapfrog development of manned space technology from near-Earth to deep space, deepen human understanding of the origin and evolution of the moon and the solar system, and contribute Chinese wisdom to the development of lunar science, he said.

The aim of space powers, such as the US, Russia and China, is to set up bases on the Moon for astronauts to live in, Dr McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in the US told BBC earlier.

”The Moon is being used as a stepping stone to places like Mars,” he says. ”It’s a great place to test out deep space technologies.” It also takes less fuel to launch a spacecraft from the Moon than from Earth to travel into deep space, according to Dr Lucinda King, space project manager at the University of Portsmouth.

Meanwhile, the three astronauts Jing Haipeng, Zhu Yangzhu, and Gui Haichao who were selected to travel by the Shenzhou-16 spaceflight mission to join the orbiting space station on Tuesday also interacted with the media.

Jing will become the country’s first astronaut to go into space for a fourth time. He was involved in the Shenzhou-7 mission in 2008 and commanded the Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-11 crews in 2012 and 2016, respectively.

Zhu and Gui are going to make their first trip to space.

Zhu will serve as a spaceflight engineer in the Shenzhou-16 mission.

Gui is a professor from Beijing-based Beihang University, and he will work as a payload expert responsible for the in-orbit operations of science experiment payloads in the country’s Tiangong space station.

The Shenzhou-16 will be the first crew mission after China’s space station program entered the stage of application and development, Lin said.

The trio will stay in orbit for about five months, he said.

Once ready, China will be the only country to own a space station as the International Space Station (ISS) of Russia is a collaborative project of several countries. The ISS station is also set to be decommissioned by 2030.

The significant feature of China’s space station is its two robotic arms, especially the long one which can grab objects including satellites from space.

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