China has made significant progress in space recently, from returning moon samples to Earth to beginning the construction of a space station, and the statement demonstrates that the government intends to build on those achievements. The next five years in space for China could be even busier than the last five. Last week, on January 28, 2021, China released a white paper outlining its intentions and priorities for spaceflight and exploration over the next half-decade.
China wants to combine space research, technology, and applications during the next five years while pursuing a new development philosophy, developing a new development model, and achieving the conditions for high-quality development.
China’s Lunar Mission
The Chang’e 4 robotic mission made history by landing softly on the moon’s far side for the first time. Chang’e 5 returned pristine lunar samples to Earth in December 2020, the first time this had been done since the 1970s. Building on the success of these two missions, China plans to launch Chang’e 6, 7, 8, complete Chang’e 8’s essential technology research and development, and cooperate with other countries, international agencies, and partners to create an international lunar research station.
You can learn more about the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program here.
China’s Mars Mission
In 2020-21, China launched and successfully executed its Mars mission Tianwen-1, which is still in operation. CNSA also wants to expand on the success of the Tianwen-1 Mars orbiter and Zhurong rover, which was the country’s first independent interplanetary mission. There is nothing concrete in motion right now, or if there is, nothing has been officially revealed yet, but they have hinted upon plans to send probes to Mars to bring back samples from the planet.
You can learn more about China’s Mars Exploration Program Tianwen-1 here.
China’s Space Station Tiangong
The Tiangong Space Station will be China’s first long-term space station, which is roughly one-fifth of the International Space Station. It is still a work in progress and will be completed by around 2027. The core module, Tianhe has already been launched, including some other minor parts. The rest of the space station, including its two science instrument labs, Wentian and Mengtian will be launched in the near future to complete the space station. Once completed, it will be the only other active station in space on such a scale, and China is one of the only countries to have an operational space station up and running independently.
You can learn more about China’s Space Station Tiangong here.
China’s Space Telescope Mission
The Chinese Space Station Telescope (CSST), which is set to launch in 2024, will operate as a space optical observatory for Chinese scientists to carry out extensive research and surveys of the sky and will be a Hubble-class telescope in size and ability. It is named Xuntian, which roughly translates to “survey the heavens”. This telescope will orbit the Tiangong Space Station and will stay nearby for needed repair, quick docking, and maintenance while observing the universe.
What China’s other plans for the future in space?
- To succeed in building the forward research base on moon, part of Chang’e 8, and complete the joint International Lunar Research Station
- To organize and prepare for future manned missions to the dark side of moon
- Improve on technological limitations to facilitate more feasible plans for boundary exploration of the solar system
- Mission to launch probes to nearby asteroids in the system to study their composition in detail and bring back samples (mission ZhengHe)
- Updating its satellite technology and establish and maintain better control over its airspace
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