Oct. 20, 1999, 9:25 AM
China targeting landings on the Moon, Mars
SHANGHAI, Oct 20 (AFP) - China, still preparing furiously for its first manned space mission, has already set its sights on landings on the Moon and on the planet Mars, the official Shanghai News reported Wednesday.
A recent national conference of space scientists held in southern Guangxi
province's Beihai city set the landings as the "two big targets" for the
space programme in the 21st century.
"Chinese scientists are in the process of discussing details of the lunar
(project)," Ye Zili, the China Space Science Association's general secretary, was
quoted as saying.
He said dozens of plans and proposals for the twin projects had already
The language of the report left it unclear whether the missions under
would be manned or not, but Ye cited the goal of "opening up the Moon's resources."
No further details were provided on funding or the likely timetable.
While China's space programme is clouded in secrecy, a leading scientist
recently told reporters in Hong Kong the country did not expect to put a
orbit until around 2005.
A retrievable empty capsule is in development and is due for a test flight
The United States and the former Soviet Union wound up their race to land human beings on the Moon in the 1970s and have shown little interest in it since.
A series of unmanned probes have been studying the surface of the Red Planet, however, and NASA expects to launch its first manned mission there around 2016.
The US probe Mars Polar Lander is due to touch down on Mars on December 3.
China has launched nearly 300 satellites into space since the early 1970s,