Agence France Presse
Wednesday 1 August 2012
Last Update 1 August 2012 9:52 am
BEIJING: China has said it will land an exploratory craft on the moon for the first time next year, as part of an ambitious space program that includes a long-term plan to put a man on the moon.
China’s third lunar probe will blast off in the second half of 2013 and attempt to land and transmit back a survey of the moon’s surface, state television reported late Monday.If it succeeds, experts said it would be the first craft to land on the moon as part of a mission — as opposed to performing a controlled crash landing at the end of one — since the Soviet space program achieved the feat in the 1970s.
“They (China) want a space program that can be considered one of the finest in the world,” said Morris Jones, an independent space analyst based in Sydney, Australia.
“If you want to be world leader in space, then you have to do missions like this.” The landing planned for next year would be China’s first on the lunar surface and mark a new milestone in its space development. It is part of a project to orbit, land on and return from the moon, the official Xinhua news agency said.
Beijing sees its multi-billion-dollar space program as a symbol of its rising global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party’s success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.
The Asian superpower has been ramping up its manned activities as the United States, long the leader in the field, has scaled back some of its programs, such as retiring its iconic space shuttle fleet.
In its last white paper on space, China said it was working toward landing a man on the moon — a feat so far only achieved by the United States, most recently in 1972 — although it did not give a time frame. It has spent about 39 billion yuan ($6.1 billion) on its manned space program since it began 20 years ago, state media have said.
Most recently, a 13-day voyage of the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft became China’s longest-ever space mission and was notable for including the nation’s first woman astronaut among its three-member crew.
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