Not content with landing a spacecraft on the far side of the moon, China now wants to build a space base up there. In a public statement, the head of China’s space program suggested it could be done within a decade. Zhang Kejian from the China National Space Administration (CSNA) told state media service Xinhua that in ‘about 10 years’ the country will have a research station on the moon’s south pole. He also mentioned in his speech that China plans to launch its first probe to explore Mars in 2020. The details are still fairly sketchy, but apparently the base will be assembled in parts. The first of these components will be put into orbit around the moon aboard one of China’s Long March-5B rockets in the first half of 2020. So far, neither the United States, Russia or the European Union have any involvement in this plan. China is going it alone.
The country is massively ramping up its presence in space exploration. China spends more on spaceflight than any other country in the world, save the United States. Although it successfully landed the Chang’e 4 lunar rover on the far side of the moon, it hasn’t always had the best track record when it comes to exploring the boundaries beyond Earth. Last year, China lost control of the Tiangong-1 space station which plunged into the South Pacific.
The 8.5-tonne Tiangong 1 mostly burned up over the vast ocean after re-entering Earth’s atmosphere at around 1.15am. China has a replacement, Tiangong-2, in orbit around Earth at the moment.