BEIJING • The Chinese government plans to send a manned mission to the moon and to build a research station there within the next decade, state media reported yesterday, citing a top space official.
China, which aims to achieve space superpower status, took a major step towards that goal when it became the first nation to land a rover on the far side of the moon in January.
It now plans to build a scientific research station on the moon's south pole within the next 10 years, China National Space Administration head Zhang Kejian said during a speech marking Space Day, Xinhua news agency reported.
He added that Beijing plans to launch a Mars probe by next year and confirmed that a fourth lunar probe, the Chang'e 5, will be launched by the end of the year.
Originally scheduled to collect moon samples in the second half of 2017, the Chang'e 5 was delayed after its planned carrier, the Long March 5 Y2 rocket, failed during a separate launch in July 2017.
China yesterday also announced that its Long March 5B rocket will make its maiden flight in the first half of next year, carrying the core parts of a planned space station.
The Tiangong - or Heavenly Palace - will go into orbit in 2022, the China Manned Space Engineering Office said.
It is set to replace the International Space Station - a collaboration of the United States, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan - which is due to be retired in 2024.
Beijing said it would launch an asteroid exploration mission and has invited collaborators to place their experiments on the probe. The current Chang'e 4 moon lander carried equipment from Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.
China now spends more on its civil and military space programmes than Russia and Japan, and is second only to the US.
Its 2017 budget was estimated at US$8.4 billion (S$11.4 billion) by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.