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China Is Planning Its Next Decade’s Missions to the Moon

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EIRNS—Building upon the success of its previous lunar missions, and the expected success of the next two, which will launch this year and next, lunar scientists and space officials met in Beijing in late April to plan out the next steps in China’s Moon exploration program, Daily Galaxy reported on May 7.

"The exploration of [the] lunar pole is a significant innovation in human history, which has drawn great attention from the around the world," said Tian Yulong, chief engineer at the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence, referring to the lunar far-side landing for next year’s Chang’e-4 mission. The spacecraft is likely to land at the South Pole Aitkin Basin. "It will also lay a solid foundation for deeper and more accurate Moon probes in the future," said Tian.

At the meeting, scientists discussed a follow-on mission, Chang’e-6, which would collect samples from the far side of the Moon in 2020, if the Chang’e-4 mission next year to land on the far side is successful, and the Chang’e-5 succeeds in bringing back samples from the Earth-facing side. The missions could lead to the placement of a radio telescope on the radio-quiet far side, the scientists propose. Probes to develop resources at the two ice-rich lunar poles are also being proposed for future missions.

In an interview last September, Zou Yongliao with the Academy of Sciences explained that China’s lunar missions would help "fill the void" in mankind’s knowledge of the universe.

Wu Yanhua, deputy director of the CNSA said at the recent meeting that Chinese aerospace should "strive to become a pioneer in the context of scientific and technological power, and the promotion of innovation." The lunar exploration program is clearly seen in that context.

The Goddard Space Flight Center has produced a two-minute video describing the characteristics of the far side of the Moon, from photographs taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance. [MGF]