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China plans to build Moon station ‘within the next decade’

China plans to send a manned mission to the Moon and to build a research station there within the next decade, state media reported on Wednesday.

Beijing is aiming to achieve space superpower status.

It became the first nation to land a rover on the far side of the Moon in January and now plans to build a scientific research station on the Moon’s south pole within the next 10 years, China National Space Administration head Zhang Kejian said during a speech marking “Space Day,” according to Xinhua.

The official confirmed that a fourth lunar probe, the Chang’e-5, will be launched by the end of the year. Beijing also plans to launch a Mars probe by 2020.

Originally scheduled to collect Moon samples in the second half of 2017, the Chang’e-5 was delayed after its planned carrier, the powerful Long March 5 Y2 rocket, failed during a separate launch in July 2017.

China on Wednesday also announced its Long March-5B rocket will make its maiden flight in the first half of 2020, carrying the core parts of a planned space station, AFP said.

The Tiangong—or “Heavenly Palace”—will go into orbit in 2022, the China Manned Space Engineering Office said.

It is set to replace the International Space Station—a collaboration between the United States, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan—which is due to be retired in 2024.

Beijing last week also said it would launch an asteroid exploration mission and invited collaborators to place their experiments on the probe.

The current Chang’e-4 Moon lander carried equipment from Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.


Image: China became the first nation to land a rover on the far side of the Moon when its Chang’e-4 touched down in January