The people in charge of China’s moon exploration program recently disclosed that if all goes according to plan, China will realize its first exploration of the moon before 2010. The country hopes to successfully send astronauts into space within the next few years.
According to a recently published article in the weekly journal Outlook, China will take three steps in carrying out its moon landing program: the first step is to launch space laboratories and flying machines into orbit to search for valuable resources; the second step is to send space robots to moon; the third step is to realize a manned moon landing. Although a specific date for the moon landing is yet to be determined, space scientists are confident that the time required for China’s first manned moon landing will be significantly less than for the US.
Moon exploration has become an important symbol for a nation's degree of technological development and a prime target for countries in the never ending search for business opportunities.
A White Paper on China’s Space Activities, issued by Chinese government on November 11, 2000, initially set the goal for moon exploration and clearly planned to carry out preliminary deep space research. At the same time, the white paper also suggested that China should stress its own characteristics when choosing targets for moon exploration. These targets will hopefully fill gaps in China’s moon exploration knowledge and contribute to scientific data for humans setting up base stations on the moon in the future. They also want to avoid reinventing the proverbial wheel by repeating the work of other countries.
The first research organization specializing in space robotics, the National Aerospace High Technology Space Robotic Engineering Research Center, has been established for the moon landing program. According to space robotics specialists at the center, space robots will take on key lunar exploration task before Chinese astronauts first set foot on the moon, playing an important role in China's space activities including the servicing of satellites and the carrying out of scientific experiments in space. China hopes to make a contribution to the setting up of an international moon base station in the future. The space robots used for moon surface exploration are small and agile. They can move nimbly, climb slopes, get around obstacles, cope with the moon's rough terrain, withstand huge temperature differences, and survive radiation.
Scientists predict that one of China’s most significant achievements in 21st century will be to set up a “moon city” using solar energy. The surplus energy will then be transmitted to storage centers back on earth.
Once China successfully implements a manned moon landing, the country will become a founding member of the international moon colonization club. Scientists also predict Mars will be China’s next goal.
(china.org.cn by Wang Qian, October 26, 2002)