Friday, October 16, 2009

China hints at station, lunar planning

Frank Morring, Jr. & Bradley Perrett
Aviation Week

Daejeon - China is laying the groundwork to land astronauts on the moon, which would follow an ambitious lunar robotic precursor program that also could pave the way for the country's first unmanned probe to Mars.

Dong Nengli of the China Manned Space Engineering Program says his organization - which developed the Shenzhou human spacecraft and is planning an unpiloted orbital rendezvous and docking experiment in 2011 - is already looking beyond the planned deployment of a 60-ton Chinese space station in 2020.

"During the course of the third step of the China manned spaceflight program, we will conduct a manned lunar mission conception study, validate the key technologies and finally pave the way for manned lunar exploration," Dong said at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) here Oct. 15.

Chinese officials stress that there has been no government approval for a manned lunar landing, and say China would "welcome" a chance to join the larger international exploration effort that has coalesced around the International Space Station.

Dong and other officials at the congress offered no details about the human-lunar concept study, instead elaborating on plans to continue gaining spaceflight experience by building toward the 60-ton, three-person space station, and to follow up the second Chang'e lunar orbiter set for launch next year with a robotic lander, rover and eventually a sample-return mission.

The first miniature space station - Tiangong 1 - is under construction and still scheduled to go into orbit in 2011 to serve as a docking target for the Shenzhou 8, which will be unmanned.

Read the article, HERE.

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