China’s Lunar Exploration Program, named after the Chinese moon goddess “Chang’e”, has so far deployed lunar orbiters, landers, rovers and sample return spacecraft to the moon. Now, the country is planning to put human beings on the moon—a feat not seen since the last Apollo mission in 1972.
According to a report by Space News citing an article by the Xiamen University School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, China has appointed Yang Lei as “Chief commander of the crewed lunar landing vehicle system”. The human lunar landing project has been dubbed as a “national strategy”. The plans are for a crewed moon landing that could take place around 2030 using a Long March 5 rocket.
The proposed mission will see two rockets, one carrying a lunar lander and the other a next-generation manned spaceship, which will rendezvous and dock in near-lunar orbit before deploying for a landing.
Long, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and chief designer of Long March rockets, made the remarks at the 35th China Adolescents Science and Technology Innovation Contest, Global Times reported. The state-run news website added that the mission could see Chinese astronauts (taikonauts) on the moon for around six hours, though a specific landing site had not been mentioned in the presentation.
However, the site said that the project had yet to receive approval according to sources.
At the 2020 China Space Conference, a presentation had mentioned details of the “new generation spacecraft” and lunar lander, as well as a new launch vehicle., along with a potential lunar orbit module and crewed roving vehicle, Space News reported. In May that year, China tested an uncrewed spacecraft that could someday carry its astronauts to the moon and deep space. It was launched via a Long March 5B rocket.
In 2019, China became the first country to land a probe on the far side of the moon. It plans another mission in 2024, when the Chang’e 6 will send a lunar orbiter, lander and perform a sample return from the moon from near the lunar south pole. That year, Chang’e 7 will also have an orbiter, lander, rover and mini-flying probe. A future Chang’e 8 is planned to perform technology tests to allow the construction of a lunar science base.
In June, China launched its Shenzhou 12 spaceflight, its seventh crewed one to space, that helped set up the first module of the Chinese space station Tiangong.