Photo provided by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) shows Chang'e-5 probe gathering samples on the moon on Dec. 2, 2020. (CNSA/Handout via Xinhua)
BEIJING, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- China will explore the moon's polar regions and is mulling over a manned lunar landing in the coming five years, according to a white paper released on Friday.
The white paper, titled "China's Space Program: A 2021 Perspective," said China will continue its studies and research "on the plan for a human lunar landing."
A new-generation manned spacecraft will be developed to support its exploration of the cislunar space, according to the paper.
It is part of the country's ambitious lunar exploration plan after its lunar probes landed on the far side of the moon in 2019 and brought back lunar samples last year, respectively.
In the next five years, China is planning to bring two more probes onto the moon to explore its polar regions, a place believed to contain water ice, especially in the deep, permanent shadows of some mountains and craters.
China will launch the Chang'e-6 lunar probe to collect and bring back samples from the moon's polar regions and launch the Chang'e-7 to perform a precise landing there and "a hopping detection" in lunar shadowed area, the paper said.
Liu Jizhong, director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), said at a press conference on Friday that Chang'e-6 will bring new samples from the moon regions of high value and Chang'e-7 will probe the water distribution on the moon.
Liu said China has signed an agreement with Russia for a collaborative lunar exploration with Chang'e-7 probe and Russia's "luna-26" orbiter.
Wu Yanhua, CNSA's deputy director, said at the press conference that Chang'e-6, Chang'e-7 and Russia's lunar mission will fulfill in about five years the survey job before building a lunar research station.
Also, the country will complete R&D on the key technology of Chang'e-8 and push forward the building of an international research station on the moon with global collaboration, according to the paper.
China is going to launch Chang'e-8 lunar probe before 2030 to "probe the moon's polar regions and verify key technologies for the lunar research station," said Liu.
The program is a counterpart to NASA's Artemis lunar exploration plans that try to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024, and establishes a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028.
Wu said China is planning to build, with another decade, a lunar facility like a small town.
"It will be equipped with energy system, communication and navigation system, long-distance transport system, space-to-ground round-trip system, ground support system, and life support system if humans are stationed there in the future," said Wu.
China's international cooperation will put stress on those missions by 2035 and after that, and multiple scientific investigations can be expected in accordance with different lunar probe task requirements of countries and organizations, according to Wu.
In the next five years, China will launch asteroid probes to sample near-Earth asteroids and probe main-belt comets, according to the white paper.
The white paper also revealed the country's technological preparations for Mars sampling and return, exploration of Jupiter system and boundary exploration of the solar system.
Back to near-Earth orbits, China plans to launch, in the next five years, two experimental modules and a space telescope, complete its space station, build a space lab onboard, and carry out large-scale scientific experiments with astronauts on long-term assignments. ■