China preparing new rocket for 2030 crewed Moon landing
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China plans to send two rockets in a crewed mission to the Moon, state media has reported.
The project will see two rockets launching towards the Moon's orbit. One of the rockets will carry the spacecraft that will land on the surface of the Moon, while the other will transport the astronauts.
Once the docking has been made successfully, the astronauts will enter the lunar lander to descend onto the Moon's surface, where they will collect samples and complete a series of scientific tests.
After the tasks are completed, the lander will transport the astronauts back to the orbiting spacecraft, on which they will return to Earth, said Zhang Hailian, deputy chief engineer at China Manned Space, at a summit in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
The goal of the mission is to overcome China's longstanding technological hurdle of developing a heavy-duty rocket powerful enough to send both astronauts and a lander probe.
The rocket China plans to use for the mission is the super-heavy Long March 10 carrier rocket, still in development, according to Zhang.
The mission comes against the background of a rivalry between China and the US for reaching new milestones in space. Both countries are also said to be eyeing the mineral resources that the Moon may hold.
Currently, the US space spending, supply chains and capabilities are believed to give it a significant edge over China, at least for now. The last Nasa crewed landing took place in 1972, and US astronauts are expected to return to the Moon by 2025.
Meanwhile, China made its first lunar landing in 2013 and has expressed its aim of becoming a major space power by 2030. The country has also recently brought back samples from the lunar surface for the first time in decades and landed a rover – Jade Rabbit – on the less-explored far side of the Moon.
In October 2022, China launched the last three modules of its space station, which became the second permanently inhabited outpost in low-Earth orbit, and could become the only functional space station in orbit, after the retirement of the ISS in 2031.
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