China plans to build its first base on the moon by 2028, ahead of landing astronauts there in subsequent years as the country steps up its challenge to NASA’s dominance in space exploration.
The lunar base will likely be powered by nuclear energy, Caixin reported. Its basic configuration will consist of a lander, hopper, orbiter and rover, all of which would be constructed by the Chang’e 6, 7 and 8 missions.
“Our astronauts will likely be able to go to the moon within 10 years,” Wu Weiran, chief designer of China’s lunar exploration program, said in an interview with state broadcaster CCTV earlier this week. Nuclear energy can address the lunar station’s long-term, high-power energy needs, he said.
China has ramped up its ambitions in space in recent years, sending probes to the moon, building its own space station and setting its sights on Mars. The plans have put it in direct competition with the US. NASA has a rover on the Red Planet and is seeking to return astronauts to the moon this decade for the first time since the Apollo program ended in the 1970s.
Both China and the US are spending billions of dollars to not just put humans on the moon, but also to access resources that could foster life on the lunar surface or send spacecraft to Mars.
In 2019, China became the first country to land a rover on the far side of the moon, and later brought back its first lunar samples. The base is intended to be the first outpost on the moon’s South Pole, an area scientists think is the best place to find water. NASA is also targeting that part of the moon. China aims to eventually expand the base into an international research station. – BLOOMBERG