China to colonize the moon
R. A. Hettinga
Mon, 3 Mar 2003 13:07:42 -0500
Probably the saddest thing I've read all year, so far...
China plans three-phase Moon exploration
13:51 03 March 03
China has revealed further details of its plans to explore the Moon - the first unmanned probe could be launched by 2005, say officials. They also hinted that the motivation for the missions is to mine the Moon's resources.
The lunar program, named Chang'e after a legend about a fairy that visits the moon, would be in three phases. First an orbiter would be sent to the Moon, followed by a lander, and then finally a sample return craft.
"We will be able to embark on a maiden unmanned mission within two and a half years if the government endorses the scheme now,'' Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist of China's lunar exploration programme, told The People's Daily .
However, a firm timetable for these missions has not been announced and funding has yet to be approved.
Mineral and energy resources
Ziyuan said exploring the Moon "probably holds the key to humanity's future subsistence and development". Chinese officials have previously said that some sort of permanent, most likely unmanned, base could be established on the Moon's surface by 2010.
Furthermore, Luan Enjie, director of China National Space Administration, hinted that China would be interesting in exploiting rare resources found on the Moon's surface.
"The prospect for the development and utilisation of the lunar potential mineral and energy resources provide resource reserves for the sustainable development of human society," he told the newspaper.
However, James Oberg, a space analyst and veteran of the US space program, believes the projects are more about national pride than scientific or industrial exploration. Nonetheless, he says the lunar missions are well within China's means.
Head of the queue
"They've already developed the capabilities to operate spacecraft around the Moon and even on its surface," he told New Scientist .
China has so far launched four "Shenzhou" spacecraft in preparation for a crewed mission into space. Such an achievement would make China only the third nation in the world, after the US and Russia, to place humans in space.
Oberg adds that China has set itself a number of ambitious goals. "As with their manned programme, they don't intend to recreate the US and Russian programmes," he says. "They intend to go to the head of the queue in terms of capabilities."
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