China’s government has officially approved three robotic moon missions which will lay groundwork for a permanent lunar base.
The Chang’e program missions in development are progressing well, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced on Sept. 10, with another spacecraft, Chang’e 6, almost complete.
China has made several leaps in lunar exploration since beginning its robotic moon program in 2004. In successive missions, the country has successfully launched first a set of orbiters, a lander and a rover; conducted the only real far-side lunar landing up to now; & most recently executed a complex sample-return mission.
Liu Jizhong, director of CNSA’s Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center, told CCTV (opens in new tab)that the overarching goal of the missions would be to lay a foundation for a lunar research station.
“There are a great number of technological issues to be tackled” Liu said. “However, with the building blocks we’ve developed and a fantastic team, I really believe we shall succeed.”
The initial of the brand new missions will undoubtedly be Chang’e 6, that was initially built as a backup to the 2020 Chang’e 5 lunar sample-return mission. Chang’e 5 was successful, therefore the spacecraft has been repurposed for the first-ever attempt at collecting samples from the far side of the moon. CNSA have not provided a timeline for the mission, regardless of the advanced stages of development of the spacecraft.
Next, Chang’e 7 will target the lunar south pole. The mission will contain an orbiter, lander, rover, relay satellite and a little detector that may hop into craters to search for water.
Chang’e 8 will launch later in the decade and is supposed to check technologies for 3D printing and for using local resources.
China is planning for a project named the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) in collaboration with Russia for the 2030s and is seeking partners to become listed on the endeavor.