Tuesday, December 27, 2016

China Sets Ambitious Five-year Plan for Space Program

China plans to go for “strength and size” in its space program, a China National Space Administration official said Tuesday.

Beijing released a white paper on Tuesday stating its space strategy for the next five years. The country is committed to a peaceful use of space and opposes a space arms race, according to the white paper released by the State Council Information Office.

“China would like to work with the international community to jointly promote the development of the global space industry, on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, the peaceful use [of outer space], [and] inclusive development,” Wu Yanhua, the deputy administrator of China National Space Administration, said at a news conference after the report’s release.

However, the program must also “meet the demands of economic, scientific and technological development, national security and social progress,” according to the policy paper.

“In the next five years, we will approach various space activities in a coordinated and scientific manner, and advance the all-around development of space science, space technologies and space applications,” Wu said.

The white paper echoes President Xi Jinping’s call for China to become a space power.

Russia and the United States have decades more experience in manned space travel, and jointly inhabit the International Space Station.

China’s military-backed program, however, has made steady progress in a comparatively short time.

It conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, becoming only the third country after Russia and the U.S. to do so. Just last month, two of its astronauts concluded a 30-day stint at the country’s Tiangong 2 experimental space station — the program’s longest manned space mission to date.

It has also conducted a spacewalk and soft landed its Yutu rover on the moon in 2013.

“To explore the vast cosmos, develop the space industry and build China into a space power is a dream we pursue unremittingly,” the white paper read.

China’s space program, a source of national pride, is looking to make China the first country to soft land a probe on the dark side of the moon, which the policy paper said may help explain the formation and evolution of the moon.

He Qisong, a space security expert at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said a soft landing on the far side of the moon would indicate China has mastered the underlying technology needed to land on a specific area of the lunar surface.

“China never talks big and says something it’s unable to achieve,” He told the Associated Press.

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