BEIJING – China intends to expand its space exploration with a mission to collect samples from the moon this year and has planned a Mars mission for 2020, the deputy head of the China National Space Administration said on Monday.
Beijing’s plans include bringing back Lunar fragments to the Earth after its space probe Chang’e 4 successfully carried out the first-ever soft landing on the dark side of the moon on Jan. 3.
CNSA vice president Wu Yanhua said that the Chang’e 5 lunar mission is planned for late 2019 and is expected to bring samples back to the Earth by 2020.
The first Mars exploration mission is also set to be launched in 2020.
Other future missions include the Chang’e 8, which will try testing key technologies and carry out preliminary exploration about the possibility of building a scientific base on the moon in the future, although Wu did not provide a timeline for the project.
He also did not confirm the date for a possible manned Lunar mission, adding that Chinese scientists were studying the project, which was in research phase and decisions were pending.
Chang’e 4 chief engineer Sun Zezhou underplayed the difficulties which the rover might face in traversing the hidden side of the moon, despite the 360 degrees photographs made available on Friday which showed a terrain full of craters.
Sin said the rover was capable of stopping and finding another way if there was an obstacle ahead and could easily adapt to the obstacles and climbs.
The Chang’e 4 probe consists of a landing module and a rover named Yutu 2, and had taken a little less than a month to reach the Moon.
The probe was launched on Dec. 8, entered the lunar orbit four days later and landed successfully on Jan. 3.