China plans to send at least three unmanned space missions to the Moon over the next 10 years. With this, the country wants to rival the United States in the era of the new space race. China’s National Space Administration, the US equivalent of NASA, has approved at least three space missions as part of China’s lunar program.
The announcement comes a day after Beijing announced the discovery of new lunar materials in samples taken by the Chang’e-5 lunar mission. According to Chinese state media, it is a colorless, transparent, columnar crystal containing helium 3. This is an element that is said to be a future energy source.
In recent years, China has shown increasing ambitions in space travel. The country not only wants to send space probes to the moon, but is also building its own space station. China has also set its sights on a mission to Mars. NASA already has a Mars rover on the Red Planet and plans to bring astronauts back to the Moon again this decade. Both China and the United States have their eyes set on the moon’s mineral resources and space mining is expected to be another source of tension between the major economic powers.
The Chinese lunar exploration program began in 2004. Three years later, the first spacecraft was launched. Taking its name from the Chinese moon goddess, Chang’e’s program is currently focused on collecting samples from the lunar surface. The Chang’e-7 program will focus on the moon’s south pole, an area that scientists believe is the best place to find water. NASA is also targeting that part of the moon.
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