A top Chinese space official on Monday described
China's ambitious exploration plans, including robotic Moon missions starting
Beyond Moon missions, including a flight to collect and return lunar samples
to Earth in 2017, the Chinese space agency plans to develop a nonpolluting
launch vehicle that can lift 55,000 pounds (25,000 kg) into orbit by 2010, said
Luo Ge, a vice administrator at the Chinese National Space Administration.
"Space is a high-risk investment," Luo said through a translator at the
Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. "China
as a developing country is limited and constrained by its funding for more
Luo said China's total annual investment in space programs is equivalent to
$500 million, but he said this was a rough figure, "not like NASA figures."
NASA's proposed budget for fiscal 2007 is $16.8 billion.
The Chinese space agency envisions a "constellation" of eight satellites to
monitor global disasters, and another satellite that would watch the Earth's
magnetic fields as a possible predictor of earthquakes, Luo said.
Luo headed a delegation that visited NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and
had a discussion with the U.S. space agency's chief, Michael Griffin.