BEIJING, March 3 (Xinhua) -- China is studying the feasibility of designing a powerful carrier rocket for making a manned moon landing and exploring deep space, Liang Xiaohong, vice head of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, told Xinhua Thursday.
The rocket is envisaged to have a payload of 130 tonnes, five times larger than that of China's current largest rocket, said Liang, who is attending the annual session of National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China's top political advisory body.
The diameter of the planned heavy-lifting rocket is expected to be two times that of the current largest one, said Liang, whose academy is responsible for the development.
He did not provide a timetable for the development, but said Chinese scientists had to acquire a number of advanced technologies to develop it.
According to him, the rocket would be an advanced model of China's next-generation carrier rockets, and the development of the first next-generation model, the Long March V, was going in accordance with plan.
With a maximum low Earth-orbit payload capacity of 25 tonnes and high Earth-orbit payload capacity of 14 tonnes, the Long March V rockets were expected to catch up with the U.S. Delta-4H rockets in payload capacity, he added.
China launched its first lunar probe, Chang'e-1, named after the country's mythical moon goddess, on Oct. 24, 2007. The probe ended its 16-month mission on March 1, 2009, when it was crashed into the moon's surface.
The second lunar probe, Chang'e-2, was launched on Oct. 1 last year. It entered its long-term lunar orbit on Nov. 3, beginning a six-month mission to take high-resolution images of the moon's Sinus Iridum, or Bay of Rainbows.
According to China's three-phase moon exploration plan, the first phase was the launch of Chang'e-2. The second will be when Chang'e-3 lands on the moon in 2013. Then, in 2017, a moon rock sample will be returned to Earth.
Space experts said the country would conduct more than 20 space missions this year as it accelerated efforts to improve space technologies.
Last year China conducted 15 space missions.