Man on moon possible within 15 years

By Zhao Huanxin (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-03-07 07:09

A leading space scientist yesterday said China is quite capable of sending a manned mission to the moon in 15 years.

Huang Chunping, former commander-in-chief of the launch vehicle system of the country's manned space mission, said that if the manned lunar project is kicked off without delay, the goal of landing a Chinese astronaut on the moon can "surely" be achieved in 15 years.

"Rockets are ladders to space," Huang told Xinhua while attending the annual session of the country's top political advisory body. "We have full confidence in the development of China's rocket industry."

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From October 1996 to the end of 2005, China's Long March rockets made 46 consecutive successful flights, according to a policy document released last October.

There could be "quite a few" uncertainties and unexpected difficulties on the country's skyward road, as landing and building a base on the moon and retrieving spacecraft is a sophisticated process, said Huang, now chief consultant for China's manned launch vehicle system.

Long Lehao, chief designer of China's carrier rocket series, yesterday said the country has the capability to send men to the moon in the timeframe specified by Huang.

Long told China Daily that from the perspective of launch vehicles, the country will be able to develop powerful carrier rockets needed for a manned lunar project.

China has not yet unveiled a manned lunar exploration plan. It has started a three-stage moon exploration project a lunar fly-by some time this year, followed by a soft landing in 2012 and the return of lunar samples in another five years.

Sun Laiyan, chief of China National Space Administration, said earlier that scientists could use the moon as a "relay station" from which they could probe further into deep space.

Both Huang and Long confirmed China could develop a new generation powerful carrier rocket within seven to eight years, which could blast off a space station.

Built on a modular design, the launch capacity of such a Long March 5 rocket will reach 25 tons for orbits about 200 km above the Earth, nearly three times as much as the Long March 2F used to launch China's manned spacecraft in 2003 and 2005, Long said.

(China Daily 03/07/2007 page1)

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