China publishes its ambitious Space Plans for the next 5 years: China’s next five years in space are probably busier than the last five. On Friday (January 28), the nation released a white paper outlining its plans and priorities for the next half-decade of spaceflight and exploration.
China has achieved much in the final frontier recently, from returning Moon samples to Earth to begin assembly of the space station, and the document makes clear that the country plans to build on those successes.
“In the next five years, China will pursue the new development philosophy, build a new development model and integrate space science, technology and applications, while meeting the requirements of high-quality development,” the white paper said, Which is called China’s Space Program: A 2021 Perspective.”
“This will begin a new journey towards [becoming] a space power,” the document’s authors write. “The space industry as a whole will contribute more to the development of China, to the global consensus and common effort regarding outer space exploration and use and human progress.”
China launched 207 space missions from 2016 to December 2021, the white paper notes. That’s an impressive number, but the country is not satisfied with its current launch vehicles.
“Over the next five years, China will continue to improve the capability and performance of its space transportation system and move rapidly to upgrade launch vehicles,” the document said.
“It will further expand the launch vehicle family, send a new generation of manned carrier rockets and high-thrust solid-fuel carrier rockets into space, and accelerate R&D [research and development] of heavy-lift launch vehicles.”
China launched Tianhe, the main module of its new space station, in April 2021, and shortly thereafter sent two of three astronaut missions into orbit, one in June and the other in October.
The country plans to complete the construction of the station this year, a task that will see the launch of two other modules, known as Mengtian and Wentian.
In addition, China is building a space telescope called Xuntian, which will launch into the same orbit as the space station and periodically dock with it.
Xuntian will launch within the next five years, the new document states. And the space station will get plenty of exercise during that stretch; The astronauts will be there on “long-term assignments”, conducting a variety of research and maintenance activities.
China also has a goal of putting boots on the Moon in the relatively near future, a bold goal that will be given serious attention over the next five years.
The white paper said that over the next half-decade, China will “continue to study and research the plan for manned lunar landings, develop a new generation of manned spacecraft and research key technologies.”
In January 2019, China’s robotic Chang’e 4 mission became the first mission to make a soft landing on the far side of the Moon. In December 2020, Chang’e brought 5 ancient lunar samples back to Earth, the first time since the 1970s.
And in February 2021, China’s first fully indigenous interplanetary mission, Tianwen 1, slipped into Mars orbit. In May of the same year, a rover named Zurong separated from the Tianwen 1 orbiter and successfully landed on the Red Planet.
China wants to achieve more robotic exploration breakthroughs in the next five years. According to the white paper, the nation will launch the Chang’e 6 sample-return mission to the lunar polar region; Launch Chang’e 7 “to make an accurate landing in the Moon’s polar regions and a hopping detection [of water ice, possibly] in the lunar shadow region;” and complete research and development on technologies critical for Chang’e 8, which is designed to help lay the foundation for a lunar research outpost. (Both Chang’e 6 and Chang’e 7 are targeted for mid-2020, and Chang’e 7 will likely rise earlier.)
According to the document, China will also launch a mission (called ZhengHe) that will return samples from an asteroid and study a comet up close.
Over the next five years, the nation will “complete major technical research on Mars sampling and return Jupiter system exploration and so forth,” as well as “study plans for the extent exploration of the Solar System,” the white paper says. ,
“Boundary Exploration” is an obvious reference to a mission that would send twin probes to the edge of the heliosphere – the giant bubble of charged particles that the Sun blows around itself – and beyond, into interstellar space. According to SpaceNews, China aims to launch that mission in mid-2020.
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Information Source: Space.com
Featured Image Credit: Adrian Mann/All About Space magazine/Future Plc