CHINA / National

China to put a man on moon by 2024
Updated: 2006-06-19 12:47

A top official in China's space programme has set 2024 for the country's first moonwalk, a Hong Kong newspaper reported on Monday.

The mission would kick off in earnest next year, the HK-based Wen Wei Po paper said, when China launches an unmanned lunar satellite in March or April to orbit and survey the lunar surface.

"China now basically possesses the technology, materials and the economic strength" to put a man on the moon, the paper quoted Long Lehao, deputy chief architect of the lunar probing project as saying.

Long said the first lunar probe "Chang'e-I" will be ready and be launched between April and June 2007.

He said China's moon probing project will move onto its second stage from 2009 to 2015, and the third stage will begin in 2017 when robots will be sent to the moon and come back with moon samples.

When the fourth stage begin in 2024, he said, China will be able to send astronauts to the moon and then return to the earth.

China has come a long way since then paramount leader Mao Zedong lamented in 1957 -- the year the Soviet Union put the first ever man-made object into orbit -- that the country was incapable even of putting a potato into space.

In 2003, China became only the third country -- after the United States and Soviet Union -- to launch a man into space aboard its own rocket. Last October, it sent two men into orbit.


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