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08 Jun 2017

China making preliminary preparations for manned lunar mission

China's space programme and its lunar mission

According to a senior Chinese space official, the Asian superpower is making "preliminary" preparations for sending a man to the moon.

Chinese state media also cited a senior official saying that it would "not take long" for the country's ambitious lunar exploration project to get government approval and funding.

However, no time frame for the mission was specified.

In context

China's space programme and its lunar mission

The fate of China's first planned manned mission

China's first manned space mission, Dawn-1, was abandoned in 1971 due to a shortage of funding. Its leaders were also arrested on charges on conspiring against Chairman Mao.

Space programme

The Chinese space programme and its progress

While the roots of the Chinese space programme can be traced back to the 1950s, the country only started making significant progress in the 2000s.

In 2003, it became the third country in the world after the US and the USSR to send a man into space on a domestically manufactured rocket.

In 2013, it completed the first "soft" lunar landing since 1976.

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China's first satellite played the Maoist hymn

China's first satellite was the Mao-1. Launched in 1970, it went into orbit and played the Maoist hymn, "The East is Red", from loudspeakers.

Lunar mission

What little we know about China's manned lunar mission

Despite preliminary preparations, the actual manned lunar exploration mission could be years away.

Last year, the state media reported a Chinese official saying that the country wanted to put humans on the moon by 2036, marking the first official confirmation of China's lunar exploration plans.

In 2018, China plans to send the first ever probe to the dark side of the moon.

Col. Yang Liwei, the man behind China's first manned mission

In the 2003 manned mission, China's first successful one, Colonel Yang Liwei orbited the Earth 14 times and returned to China a national hero.

US suspicious of expanding Chinese influence in space

Conflict with US

US suspicious of expanding Chinese influence in space

Despite having only one-tenth of US space programme's budget, China's expanding space programme has become an issue of concern for the US.

While China has repeatedly insisted that its space programme is for peaceful purposes, the US Defense Department thinks otherwise.

After Beijing tested anti-satellite missiles, the US Congress banned NASA from co-operating with its Chinese counterpart for alleged security reasons.

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