Where No Chinese Has Gone Before

China is readying itself to join an elite club of nations that have sent a spacecraft into orbit around the moon. The U.S., Russia and Japan are the only existing members. The People’s Daily announced that China’s program has entered the launching phase but did not give a date.

The project is running behind schedule. China, which put a human in space in 2003, had been expected to launch a lunar probe last year, with landing an unmanned vehicle on the Moon happening in 2010-2012 and a mission to return with lunar samples scheduled for around 2015. A manned flight would be next –2020 is the target date that has appeared in press reports. The head of the China National Space Administration has also talked of eventual colonization.

It is getting crowded up their with the U.S., Japan and India all planning lunar launches over the next 18 months. China is not a member of the 16-nation consortium building an international space station expected to be completed by 2010, but has plans for its own manned space station.

“The moon probe project is the third milestone in China’s space technology after satellite and manned spacecraft projects, and a first step for us in exploring deep space,” Sun Laiyan, head of the CNSA, said earlier this year. China is now only a short step from being an space power, with the all the commercial and military implications that holds for the rest of the world.

Update: The People’s Daily reports that mission controllers lost contact with China’s first manned space flight as Shenzhou V re-entered the earth’s atmosphere, putting the landing at risk. In the event the craft landed safely but 9 kms from its intended landing site.

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One response to “Where No Chinese Has Gone Before

  1. Pingback: Moon Shot « China Bystander

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