China plans to launch three unmanned missions to the moon over the next 10 years, as it seeks to rival the United States in the new era of space exploration.
Liu Jizhong, an official with the China Lunar Exploration Center and Space Program, said the China National Space Administration, which is equivalent to NASA, had received approval to send three orbiters to the moon as part of the Chang’e lunar program. CCTV.
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The announcement came a day after China announced that it had discovered a new lunar mineral, through samples retrieved by the Chang’e-5 mission. Named Changesite-(Y), the state-run Xinhua News Agency described it as a kind of colorless transparent columnar crystal. It is said to contain helium-3, a similar species that has been speculated as a future energy source.
China has boosted its space ambitions in recent years, sending probes to the moon, building its own space station, and setting its sights on Mars, plans that put it in direct competition with the United States. NASA has a rover on the Red Planet and is seeking to return astronauts to the Moon again this decade. Both countries are eyeing lunar minerals with the expectation that space mining will be the next source of tension.
The two sides have been trading barbs in recent weeks, after the postponement of the US Artemis I mission, its first major push to return to the Moon in half a century. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson has accused China of stealing space technology, and the country has been criticized for space debris.
China’s lunar exploration program was established in 2004, and launched its first spacecraft three years later. Chang’e takes its name from the Chinese moon goddess, and has recently focused on collecting samples from the lunar surface.
The Chang’e-7 program will target the moon’s south pole, an area that scientists believe is the best place to find water. NASA is also targeting that part of the moon.
Liu, a government official, said Saturday that China eventually aims to build an international research station based on the moon.
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