China is soaring to new heights, launching a new crew into space on Tuesday that will take over its orbiting space station as the country prepares to put astronauts on the moon by 2030. China has claimed that it has aspirations to land a crew on the moon within the next decade, with the chief designer of China’s lunar exploration program suggesting that the possibility would be “no problem,” according to the New York Times.
Lin Xiqiang, the deputy director of China’s Manned Space Agency, said: “We can clasp the moon in the ninth heaven.” The reference was apparently drawing from a Mao Zedong poem.
Lin said that the moon-landing project, which is a branch of the Lunar Exploration Project, otherwise known as the Chang’e Project – a reference to the Chinese moon goddess – had just recently been kicked off, but he did not provide specifics. The report also noted that the project would see short-terms stays on the moon, as well as collecting samples and carrying out further research.
The crew of three, which includes China’s first civilian astronaut, boarded the Shenzhou 16 spacecraft on the Jiuquan launch centre near the Gobi Desert, and launched into space towards the Tiangong station around 9:30 am, according to the Associated Press.
This crew will replace the three astronauts that are currently onboard the Tiangong station, who will make their way back to Earth after completing a six-month mission.
On Monday, Chinese space officials said that they will be expanding modules at the Tiangong station and announced plans to launch a crew of astronauts to the moon before the end of the decade, the outlet reports.
China, who has been barred from the International Space Station (ISS) since 2011, launched its first successful crewed mission in 2003, which made them one of three countries to complete a mission to space, alongside the US and Russia.
The crew that took off on Tuesday, which includes Beijing’s top aerospace research professor Gui Haichao, spacecraft engineer Zhu Yangzhu, and mission commander Maj. Gen. Jing Haipeng will conduct scientific experiments and regular maintenance over the next five months at the Tiangong station, AP reports.
The Chinese space station has long been in competition with the United States, who is committed to putting astronauts back on the moon by the end of 2025, with the help of Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.
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