China is planning to build a scientific research station on the moon in “about 10 years”, according to the state news agency Xinhua.
The China National Space Administration (CSNA) intends to use the research station in the region of the moon, the south pole, Zhang Kejian, head of the CSNA, said in a public statement, Xinhua reported. That is a bit of a deviation from the six successful NASA Apollo moon landings, which took place closer to the equator of the moon between 1969 and 1972.
Details of China in the long-term lunar plans are still vague, but CSNA has taken important steps in the direction of exploration of the moon. Earlier this year, the Chinese successfully landed the uncrewed Chang’e-4 on the back side of the moon, and have also placed astronauts on board two temporary space stations, Tiangong-1 Tiangong-2. Their space agency also plans to set up a larger, more permanent station in orbit in the coming years. [Photos of the Moon too Far from the Side! Chinese Chang’e 4 moon landing]
The first parts of the permanent station will reach the space on board of the new Long March-5 rocket in the first half of 2020, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported; the mission will not be associated with the International Space Station. The ISS is reaching the end of its operational lifetime, plus the United States and China do not cooperate on the space to do so.
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Kejian also announced that Chang’e-5, a uncrewed lunar lander, originally planned for launch in 2017, will attempt to reach the moon and return with samples in 2019, Xinhua reported.
China currently spends more to spaceflight than any country, with the exception of the USA, according to AFP. At the time that the U.S. is not able to get people into space without piggybacking on a Russian rocket; plans to change that model by the use of for-profit-rockets – such as which are the property of SpaceX – hit a number of disadvantages. Still, American officials have also suggested that there are plans to return to the moon and stay on the planet for a longer period of time in the near future.
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Originally published on Live Science.