China has, in recent years, greatly accelerated its space program. It has sent a rover to Mars, along with several probes. If that wasn’t enough, it’s currently constructing a very ambitious single-country space station (though some guests are allowed), and it’s also planning to send humans to the Moon.
As an addendum to its short-term space plans, the country intends to send its first astronauts to the lunar surface by the end of the decade. According to SpaceNews, earlier this month China outlined its manned mission to land and collect samples from our largest orbiting satellite.
Moonrise over China
The country isn’t planning to go small, either. The proposed mission will send two astronauts to the Moon but it’ll do so with under-development hardware that will be launched from the country’s Long March 10 rockets. A crewed spacecraft and a lander module would be sent on two different rockets, according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA). These two units would meet up in lunar orbit, dock, and then the crew will land so the mission can be carried out.
The crewed spacecraft will supposedly be very advanced, with deep space flight and atmospheric reentry capability. That sounds like a Space Shuttle successor, with a few extra bells and whistles. The 26-ton craft has reportedly already undergone a “… full-scale boilerplate flight test of a version of a new-gen spacecraft in a relatively high orbit”.
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The landing section, according to the CMSA’s Zhang Hailian, will also weigh 26 tons. It will be split into landing and propulsion stages, with the latter handling lunar orbit and descent to the Moon’s surface. The lander itself will include four variable-thrust engines and will be able to return the astronauts to a lunar orbit.
Also in development are a lunar rover, said to weigh 200kg and have a 10-kilometre range, a new spacesuit with what sounds like exoskeleton properties, and the Long March 10 rocket itself. That rocket is expected to make its first launch in 2027, ahead of the planned 2030 manned mission to the Moon.