China is making preliminary preparations to send a manned mission to the Moon, a space official said. The project is expected to receive government approval and funding shortly, said Yang Liwei, Deputy Director General of China Manned Space Agency, who in 2003 became the first Chinese astronaut to travel to space, reports Efe. The mission will be the culmination of China's two ongoing space programmes, the Shenzhou manned missions and the Chang'e lunar probes.
Nine men and seven women from China have flown on the Shenzhou missions, whose main objective is to set up a permanent space station. The next mission, Shenzhou-12, will be launched in 2018. China has already sent three missions to the Moon (the last one in 2013 was the country's first mission to land on the Moon's surface) and it will send the next two missions in 2017 and 2018.
China plans to become the first country to soft land a probe on the far side of the moon with one of these missions.
China is planning a number of manned missions into space between 2019 and 2020. China plans to build its own 60 tonne space station over the course of these missions. The Chinese astronauts are making preparations for the missions, and expected to stay in the space station for three to six months initially, and for longer durations later on.
With inputs from IANS