China Is Targeting the Moon for Exploration

China currently has a rover on the dark side of the moon and plans to send more probes in the next few years


NSFW    BEIJING — While the world dreams about getting to Mars, China is targeting the moon for exploration. This means that the moon could soon be a source of conflict between Earth's superpowers because of possible future questions regarding who controls the mining rights to different parts of the moon.

China's space administration, the CNSA, currently has a rover exploring the far side of the moon as part of its Chang'e 4 mission. It is also preparing to launch the Chang'e 5 mission this year to collect lunar samples and bring the samples back to Earth.

The nation plans to add to its impressive list of lunar projects with a new set of missions to explore the moon's south pole. Chang'e 6, a backup mission for this year's sample-return launch, is scheduled to head to the moon in 2023 or 2024.

Chang'e 7 is scheduled to launch around 2024 with the dual aims of landing on the south pole of the moon and closely studying the region from orbit. The Chang'e 7 mission will be quite a complex mission featuring 5 different spacecraft.

These five spacecraft would weigh 8.2 tonnes and would be thrusted into space by a Long March 5 rocket. The 5 spacecraft would be a mini flying craft, a surface rover, a lander, a relay satellite, and an orbiter.

The orbiter would scan the south pole of the moon from orbit, using sensitive measuring equipment. The lander and the rover would also feature such equipment. The "mini flying craft" would carry a water-molecule analyzer to take measurements in permanently shadowed areas at the lunar south pole.

Following this Chang'e 7 mission, the Chang'e 8 mission would be another lunar south pole landing mission planned for the late 2020s. That mission would include test technology for using local resources to manufacture objects by using 3D printers, according to Chinese press statements.
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