China announced plans on Tuesday to launch a space probe to bring back samples from the moon before the end of the year, in what state media cast as competition to U.S. President Donald Trump’s ambitions to revitalise U.S. space exploration.
The Chang’e-5 lunar probe is undergoing a final round of tests and is expected to be on standby for launch from August, the official People’s Daily said, citing the China National Space Administration.
The launch will involve new challenges for China in sample collection, taking off from the moon and high-speed reentry to the Earth’s atmosphere, making it ‘one of China’s most complicated and difficult space missions’, Hu Hao, an official from China’s Lunar Exploration Programme, told the paper.
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The Chang’e-5 lunar probe is undergoing a final round of tests and is expected to be on standby for launch from August, the official People’s Daily said, citing the China National Space Administration
CHINA’S PLANS FOR SPACE EXPLORATION
Since 2009, China has been upping its work in space exploration in a number of stages.
Each stage has been given a name to refer to the mission plans.
Stage 1 ‘Around’: Yinghuo-1 was launched in 2009 with the aim of bringing back samples however it was left stranded in orbit and disintegrated.
Stage 2 ‘Landing’: Yinghuo-2 is expected to launch in 2020 to collect data on Mars
Stage 3 ‘Circular’: A rover will be sent to Mars to carry out exploration
Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for China to become a global power in space exploration.
‘Not long ago, the United States’ Trump Administration revealed an ambition to return to the moon.
‘Our country also announced a series of deep space exploration plans,’ said the official Science and Technology Daily.
‘The moon is the first stop for humanity’s march towards deep space,’ the paper said.
In February, the Trump administration asked the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to look into the possibility of manning a heavy-lift rocket mission, expected to be launched in 2018, perhaps setting the stage for a human return to the moon.
China’s new probe is the latest step in its lunar exploration programme.
In 2013, it completed its first lunar ‘soft landing’ since 1976 with the Chang’e-3 craft and its Jade Rabbit rover.
The launch will involve new challenges for China, taking off from the moon and high-speed reentry to the Earth’s atmosphere, making it ‘one of China’s most complicated and difficult space missions’, said Hu Hao, an official from China’s Lunar Exploration Programme
China is aiming to send a probe to the dark side of the moon by 2018, the first ever such trip, and hopes to put astronauts on the moon by 2036.
In January, China’s space agency announced plans to launch two missions to Mars, and a probe to Jupiter.
Vice Director of China’s National Space Administration Wu Yanhua said the first probe would be sent to Mars by 2020.
TRUMP’S MANNED MOON MISSION
Just last week, NASA’s top staff was given instructions to assess the feasibility of sending humans to space with the first flight of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft.
The mission was originally designed to be uncrewed, and was set to launch in 2018.
The mission will use NASA’s Orion capsule to carry up to four astronauts around the moon – the first time humans have left low orbit since 1972. The mission was originally set for launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA, as early as 2021 – but could now been far sooner.
In a press conference, officials leading the study revealed the evaluations are now well underway, and they’ve already created a ‘hard, crisp list’ of everything that will need to change ‘from a hardware standpoint’ in order to add crew.
But, so far, the team says they’re sticking to their baseline plan for EM-1, and will let the ‘let the data drive’ any decisions moving forward.
It will see Nasa’s Orion, stacked on a Space Launch System rocket capable of lifting 70 metric tons will launch from a newly refurbished Kennedy Space Center in November 2018.
The uncrewed Orion will travel into Distant Retrograde Orbit, breaking the distance record reached by the most remote Apollo spacecraft, and then 30,000 miles farther out (275,000 total miles).
The mission will last 22 days and was originally designed to test system readiness for future crewed operations.
Then, a second probe will be launched to collect samples and conduct research on the red planet’s structure, composition, and environment.
The agency also revealed its plans for a fly-by of Jupiter, and the exploration of an asteroid.
China conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, and has made steady progress in the short time since.
China announced plans to launch a space probe to bring back samples from the moon before the end of the year, in what state media cast as competition to U.S. President Donald Trump’s ambitions to revitalise U.S. space exploration. The Chang’e 3 probe is pictured, in 2013
The country has staged a spacewalk, and landed a rover on the moon in 2013, marking the first time humans had soft landed anything on the moon since the 1970s.
A fully functioning, permanently crewed space station is on course to begin operations six years from now and is slated to run for at least a decade.