China expects first unmanned moon mission
A leading scientist for China's first moon exploration mission said in Beijing on Sunday that the country has no manned landing project by the year of 2017.
Ouyang Ziyuan, a senior researcher at the national observatory, specified the three-phased exploration plan as moon orbiting, soft-landing on the moon and a return trip.
The scientist who helps mastermind the country's ambitious journey to the moon was invited to give a lecture at the 12th conference of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) academicians, top honorary titles for over 600 Chinese and a few foreign scientists.
Ouyang, who himself is a CAS academician, said that the first step is designing a multifunctional orbiter, which was named after a fabled fairy Chang'e who flied to the moon.
The orbiter, Chang'e I, will get precise three-dimentional pictures of the moon, detect the 14 elements, including helium-3, in a remote way, and take back environmental, geological and topographic features of the moon, Ouyang said.
The key of the second phase is to develop a moon-lander, which might get much more detailed information on the moon, he said.
In the third phase, he said, scientists hope a unmanned vessel return with samples from the moon.
After the three phases, Ouyang said, the country will consider how and when to launch manned moon mission.
The Chinese government listed outer space exploration as one job in first years of the 21st century. A space white paper, published in 2000, outlined moon mission as one vital preliminary research for outer space exploration.
Ye Peijian, CAS academician, said moon exploration is a necessary step for China after it successfully delivered its first astronaut into space.
Ye said that technological obstacles for any exploration on moon would be orbits designing, controling and data transmitting, orbiter navigation, heat controling and energy technology.
The United States and the Soviet Union had competed with each other since 1959 in launching moon orbiters. Both of them fired 83 orbiters, 45 out of which were successful.
Apollo 11 of the United States landed on the moon in July 1969. Afterwards, Soviets took 382 kilograms of samples from the moon.
In recent years, developed countries recast their interest in detecting and even landing the moon.
"They have more specific goals in building bases on the moon," Ouyang said.
"The moon belongs to nobody, but pace-makers could undoubtedly benefit," he said.