According to the International Business Times, #china issued a white paper outlining a number of ambitious #Space explorations goals. Some of the missions outlined, focusing on the moon and Mars as well as a large crewed space station, have already been previously announced. But China has now outlined missions to asteroids and the Jupiter system as official targets of its space program.
The next in the series of Chang’e probes will land on the far side of the moon by 2018. The mission will include a communications satellite to transmit images and data from the landing site to the Earth. The mission will constitute a space first for the world community. China has already landed a probe on the lunar surface and two in lunar orbit.
China also intends to send its first probe to Mars by 2020, joining a host of countries, especially the United States, which have explored the Red Planet.
China will deploy its first large scale space station by 2022, starting with the launch of its core module by 2018. The Chinese have already conducted a successful crewed mission in 2016 with its Tiangong-2 module.
The proposals to send missions to asteroids and the Jupiter system are new. A number of countries have already sent robotic probes to asteroids, including the American Dawn expedition to Vesta and Ceres. A number of private companies are interested in mining asteroids for their abundant mineral riches. Only the United States, most recently with its Juno probe, has sent missions to the Jupiter system. America is planning a dedicated mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa which is thought to have a warm water ocean underneath an icy crust.
China has recognized for decades that the path to superpower status extends through space. It has racked up a number of impressive space achievements, including a series of crewed Shenzhou missions of increasing length and complexity. The country is thought to be ultimately aiming for crewed expeditions to the lunar surface sometime in the 2020s.
China’s rising space program represents a challenge to the United States, whose own outer space efforts have faltered during the Obama years. President Elect Donald Trump is keenly aware of the threat and is planning accordingly to shake up NASA as a response.