China is charging ahead with its plans to consolidate its position as one of the major global players in space. The Asian giant plans to land its taikonauts (astronauts) on the Moon by 2030. One of the goals is to explore and bring back samples, according to a preliminary plan released by the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA). The word taikonaut combines the Chinese word ‘taikong’, which means ‘space’, and the Greek ‘naut’, which can be translated as ‘traveler’.
On July 12th, the deputy chief designer of CMSA, Zhang Hailian, announced at a space industry forum in Wuhan that researchers are working on the development of the Long March-10 carrier rocket, a new generation of manned spacecraft, lunar landers, lunar landing spacesuits, manned lunar rovers and other equipment, as reported by Space News. The new carrier rocket will have three and a half stages with a payload capacity of about 27 tons to lunar transfer orbit, and the rocket body is five meters in diameter. Wuhan is the capital of central China’s Hubei province.
By 2030, the Chinese people will definitely be able to set foot on the moon. That’s not a problem.Wu Weiren, Chief Designer of China’s lunar exploration program
The new generation of manned spacecraft has three parts: an escape tower, a re-entry capsule and a service capsule, Zhang said, adding that the new spacecraft will employ module designs that can meet the needs in both near-Earth and deep space explorations.
The 200-kilogram lander will consist of two parts: a landing section and a propulsion section, and can send two taikonauts to the lunar surface at the same time. The spacesuit being developed for the lunar landing, with a single working time of no less than eight hours, will have improved mobilities to help the taikonauts walk, climb, crouch, drive and operate machines.
One of the goals is to launch two carrier rockets to send a lunar lander and a manned spacecraft to a lunar orbit, respectively. The spacecraft and lunar lander will meet and dock with each other, and then the taikonauts will enter the lander.
As the lunar lander descends and reaches the prearranged area on the lunar surface, the taikonauts will carry out scientific tasks and collect samples, as reported by Xinhua news agency. After completing the planned tasks, the taikonauts will return to the lander, which will take them back to lunar orbit to dock with their spacecraft. In the final step, the spacecraft will take the taikonauts back to Earth with lunar samples.
Zhang said China will also explore the construction of a lunar scientific research station and carry out systematic, long-term lunar exploration and related technical tests and verification. Currently, the only lunar program that includes lunar landings is the NASA-driven Artemis, which has the collaboration of the European Space Agency, Japan’s JAXA and the Canadian Space Agency. The first mission to take a crew of astronauts back to the lunar surface for the first time in more than 50 years is Artemis 3, scheduled for 2025.
On July 17th, the CMSA announced a call for proposals for science payloads to travel on the lunar lander, as reported by Space News. The call is open to research institutions, universities and high-tech enterprises. The CMSA would like to receive proposals that focus on topics such as lunar geology, space life sciences, physics, among others.
1. Test flight
The new rocket is scheduled for a test flight in 2027. In 2020, China’s space agency launched the Chang’e 5 mission, which successfully returned samples from the moon’s surface. This marked a major milestone for China’s space program and demonstrated their growing capabilities in space exploration.
China has been conducting test flights to space for several decades, with its first manned space mission taking place in 2003. Since then, China has launched several manned and unmanned missions to space, including crewed missions to its Tiangong space station, which was launched in April 2021.
2. Permanent base
The country’s plans include the setting up of a permanent base, known as the International Lunar Research Station, which is planned to be constructed in the 2030s. For this massive engineering project to come true, the Chinese are planning several robotic missions to the lunar south pole. These missions will test 3D printing technology in order to create Lego-like bricks from lunar soil.