China will fire a lucky bunch of taikonauts at the Moon after 2017 as a precursor to establishing a base there, although it admitted that there is no timetable as yet for a manned lunar landing.
Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist for China’s lunar orbiter project, told a conference of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World in the northern city of Tianjin that his team needs to find out more about the Moon’s surface before drawing up further plans, according to Xinhua.
"Putting a man on the moon involves a very complicated systematic program with many technical challenges to solve, including those related to conducting space walks, docking, staying on the Moon and returning,” he said.
“China won't carry out a manned Moon landing until it masters all of these crucial technologies.”
The People’s Republic has already hurled two probes at the Moon; the Chang’e-1 orbiter in 2007 and Chang’e-2 in 2010, which came back with detailed scientific data and comprehensive mapping info, the report said.
The third mission will be the most important yet, however, involving the landing of a 100kg lunar rover vehicle which will be tasked with collecting and analysing samples of the Moon’s surface.
Once the probe is retrieved in 2017 then the planning for the manned expedition can apparently begin.
Even further in the future, although how much further is not yet clear, will be the construction of a base on the Moon, according to Ouyang.
China may have some competition in this respect, however, with Japan and India having both signalled their interest in building lunar facilities.
Russian deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, also jumped on the astro-bandwagon last week by declaring his country’s space program should set itself the “super goal” of building an extensive base on the Moon. ®