CHINA / National

Space official lays out exploration plans
Updated: 2006-04-04 09:01

A top Chinese space official on Monday described China's ambitious exploration plans, including robotic Moon missions starting next year.

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 ambitious programs."

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.
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