August 15, 2005

China plans unmanned moon mission by 2007 – media

BEIJING (Reuters) - China plans to launch its first
unmanned lunar flight by 2007 in a three-phase mission that
aims to bring back rock samples, state media said on Tuesday.

In the second stage, a lunar vehicle would land on the moon
by 2012 and by 2017 the rock samples could be collected, the
report said quoting aerospace officials.

"Scientists hope to get to know the moon's environment and
analyze the composition of lunar rocks," the China Daily quoted
Luan Enjie, chief commander of China's lunar exploration
program, as saying.

China has developed an ambitious space program since its
first Long March rocket blasted off in 1970. It became the
third country to successfully send a man into space in October
2003 and regularly sends up research satellites.

China's lunar orbiter weighed more than two tons and was
expected to fly for a year, collecting information for a
mapping of the moon's surface and studying its mineral content,
Luan said.

He did not say when China might be sending an astronaut to
the moon, but said the 2017 mission would provide data for a
manned expedition.