China officially announces plans to send astronauts to the Moon before 2030

China's first crewed Moon mission will be a "short stay on the lunar surface", including "human-robotic joint exploration."
Chris Young
An artist's impression of astronaut's on the Moon planting the Chinese flag.
An artist's impression of astronaut's on the Moon planting the Chinese flag.

3DSculptor / iStock 

China plans to land astronauts on the Moon before 2030, in a step that highlights the space ambitions of both China and the US and heats up the space race between the two.

The US aims to send astronauts back to the Moon — for the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972 — by around 2025.

Now, according to a report from ABC News, Lin Xiqiang, Deputy Director of the Chinese Manned Space Agency, emphasized China's aim of reaching the Moon before 2030, stating during a news conference on Monday that the country is preparing for a "short stay on the lunar surface and human-robotic joint exploration.”

The US-China space race heats up

Both the US and China have plans to build bases on the Moon. NASA's upcoming Artemis missions are designed to build a permanent human presence on the lunar surface, which will act as a stepping stone for human exploration of Mars.

China had previously suggested it aims to go to the Moon before 2030, but the latest update formalizes the timeline.

NASA, meanwhile, plans to send a crew to the lunar south pole with its upcoming Artemis III mission, which is due to land on the Moon with a modified Starship lander in 2025.

Since it first sent humans to space in 2003, China has done a lot to catch up with the world's traditional space powers, the US and Russia. The country's space administration has successfully achieved numerous milestones including a rover sample return mission from the Moon, a rover mission on Mars, and the launch of its Tiangong space station.

China also plans to build bases once it sends humans to the Moon, and much like the US and Russia, it is also eyeing the lunar south pole due to the belief that its permanently shadowed craters hide an abundance of frozen water ice.

The rise of China's space industry and the fact that it has stated it aims to become a dominant power in space by the mid-century has led to some combative remarks from officials in the US. Brig Gen Jesse Morehouse at US Space Command, for example, recently stated "If someone was to threaten the United States of America, or any of our interests, including those of our allies and partners with whom we have treaties of mutual defense support, we are ready to fight tonight."

China plans to expand the Tiangong space station

During the press conference, China also introduced the new crew heading to its Tinagong orbital space station in a launch currently set for Tuesday, May 30, aboard one of China's Shenzhou 16 spacecraft.

The crew of three includes the first civilian to travel to China's space station. All crew members to date have been members of the People's Liberation Army, the military wing of the country's ruling Communist Party.

The crew will be made up of civilian Gui Haichao, a professor at Beijing's top aerospace research institute, as well as mission commander Jing Haipeng and spacecraft engineer Zhu Yangzhu.

China officially announces plans to send astronauts to the Moon before 2030
An artist's impression of China's Tiangong space station.

"We have a complete near-Earth human space station and human round-trip transportation system," Lin explained, adding that two crewed missions a year would be "sufficient for carrying out our objectives."

Lin also added that the Tiangong space station will be expanded beyond the initial three-module plan. China's space agency announced that the orbital station was complete in November when the third module was lifted into orbit.

The fourth module will be added "at an appropriate time to advance support for scientific experiments and provide the crew with improved working and living conditions," Lin said.

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