China confirms objective to put humans on Moon by 2030 as it presents increasingly direct competition to US space programme
China aims to put humans on the Moon before 2030, an official said on Monday.
Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the Chinese Manned Space Agency, confirmed the goal at a news conference at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China without giving a specific date.
The project involves the development of a new Long March 10 crew-carrying rocket, a lunar landing capsule and a lunar extravehicular suit, as well as the construction of rocket testing and launch facilities, he said.
The programme is aiming initially for a “short stay on the lunar surface and human-robotic joint exploration”, Lin said.
“We have a complete near-Earth human space station and human round-trip transportation system”, as well as a process for selecting, training and supporting new astronauts, he said, adding that a schedule of two crewed missions a year is “sufficient for carrying out our objectives”.
The under-development Long March 10 rocket is scheduled for a test flight in 2027, Wu Weiren, chief designer for the country’s lunar exploration programme, told broadcaster CCTV last month.
The US Artemis programme aims to put humans on the moon by the end of 2025.
Lin said China’s Tiangong space station, deemed complete last November with the addition of a third section, would be expanded “at an appropriate time” to add further support for scientific experiments and to improve crew working and living conditions.
Space station crew
Three astronauts are due to launch on Tuesday aboard the Shenzhou 16 spacecraft to travel to the station to replace the three who have been living there for the past six months.
The new crew will for the first time include a civilian, Gui Haichao, a professor at the country’s top aerospace institute. All previous crew members have been in the People’s Liberation Army.
China carried out its first manned space mission in 2003 and has landed probes on the Moon and Mars, and plans to follow the US in landing a spacecraft on an asteroid.