China Announces Plans to Develop Lunar Spacecraft for Manned Mission to the Moon

Mar 10, 2017 08:21 AM EST

Enough of Mars, space agencies worldwide have a new target, and a rather easier one at that -- the moon. China announced its intent to join the race to the moon by developing a lunar spacecraft designed to carry humans to the surface of the moon.

The Chinese state media recently revealed that the country's new spacecraft is capable of sending astronauts to the moon and the near-Earth orbit. The news was first mentioned in the official paper of the Ministry of Science and Technology of China.

The lunar spacecraft is allegedly designed to carry six astronauts onboard as cited by system chief architect Zhang Bainan, according to a report.

Recently, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk revealed that he is sending two tourists to orbit the moon in 2018. While NASA and ESA are working on the Orion spacecraft for a manned mission to the moon in 2023. China's new lunar spacecraft is its direct move to rise up to leading space agencies in their deeper space explorations and lunar missions.

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Aside from landing on the moon, China also plans to retrieve rock samples from the lunar surface. The spacecraft called Chang'e-5 lunar probe is already being tested and may be ready for its launch by August this year. China is not new to the lunar landing scene, as the country was able to successfully land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon last 2013.

Although China is mum about the details of the spacecraft, Bloomberg reported that Zhang compared the lunar probe to NASA and ESA's Orion spacecraft. Despite China's track record on the moon landing, the country is behind when it comes to manned missions. Reports say the country sent its first astronaut into space only in 2003. Since then, the agency had sent other crew to spend missions aboard their own space lab.

China is also planning to run a space station, in time for the retirement of the International Space Station (ISS).

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