BEIJING, Nov. 5 -- China, which launched its
first manned space mission just two years ago, plans to put a man on the moon
around 2017 and investigate what may be the perfect source of fuel, a newspaper
reported on Friday.
Two Chinese astronauts orbited
Earth for five days last month in the Shenzhou VI and China was now developing
new craft up to the Shenzhou X, eyeing a permanent space station and an eventual
moon mission, domestic media said this week.
Astronaut Nie Haisheng (R) talks
to journalists after he and Fei Junlong got out of the re-entry capsule of
the Shenzhou VI spacecaft at the main landing field in Central Inner
Mongolia Autonomous Region October 17, 2005. The two orbited the Earth for
five days in China's second manned space mission which ended up in a
complete success. [Xinhua]
"China will make a manned moon landing at a proper
time, around 2017," leading scientist Ouyang Ziyuan was quoted by the Southern
Metropolis News as saying.
The project also includes setting up a moon-based
astronomical telescope, measuring the thickness of the moon's soil and the
amount of helium-3 on the moon -- an element some researchers say is a perfect,
non-polluting fuel source.
Some scientists believe there is enough helium-3 on
the moon to power the world for thousands of years.
"We will provide the most reliable report on helium-3
to mankind," Ouyang said.
The United States unveiled a $104 billion plan in
September to return Americans to the moon by 2018. Its Apollo program carried
the first humans to the moon in 1969.
China's first lunar orbiter could blast off as early
as 2007, coinciding with its third manned space trip in which possibly three men
would orbit Earth in Shenzhou VII and conduct a space walk.
China was designing a rocket that could carry a
payload of 25 tons, up from a present limit of eight tons, the Beijing News
reported this week, though it would unlikely be ready for another six-and-a-half
(Source: China Daily/Reuters)