China Provides Comprehensive Information on Solar System Exploration Plans

China has recently revealed its updated roadmap for lunar and deep space exploration missions at the 74th International Astronautical Congress. The focus is on the Chang’e lunar exploration program, with missions planned for the next seven years.

The sixth mission, Chang’e 6, is scheduled for 2024 and will be China’s second robotic sample return mission to the moon. It aims to obtain soil and rock samples from the far side of the Moon and return them to Earth. The mission will also carry secondary payloads from France, Italy, Sweden, and Pakistan.

In 2026, China plans to launch Chang’e 7, which will focus on studying the Moon’s south pole. The mission will study the surface environment, search for water ice in the soil, and investigate the magnetic field and thermal characteristics around the pole.

Chang’e 8 is set to launch in 2028 and will test in-situ resource generation for the upcoming International Lunar Research Station. It will also conduct research on enclosed mini-terrestrial ecosystems on the lunar surface.

To support these missions, China will launch the Queqiao-2 (Magpie-2) relay satellite. This spacecraft will operate in an elliptical orbit around the moon for at least eight years and will be used to transmit data back to Earth from the far side of the Moon.

In addition to the Chang’e program, China also detailed its Tianwen missions, which explore other bodies in the solar system. Tianwen-2, scheduled for launch in March 2025, will explore the near-Earth asteroid 469219 Kamo╩╗oalewa and collect a sample of regolith to bring back to Earth. It will then study comet-like asteroid 311P/PanSTARRS in 2034.

Tianwen-3 is a sample return mission to Mars, with the first launch planned for 2028 and the sample return scheduled for July 2031. Tianwen-4, on the other hand, will explore Jupiter and the Jovian system. It’s set to launch in October 2029 and will arrive at Jupiter in 2035.

In October, the Tiangong Space Station will begin its next crew rotation with the launch of Shenzhou 17. This mission will bring a new Commander, Operator, and System Operator for the Space Station.

However, not all recent launches have been successful. The Gushenxing-1 rocket, launched by Galactic Energy, experienced propulsion problems during its first stage flight and was destroyed either by aerodynamic forces or a flight termination system.

Despite this setback, China successfully launched several other missions in the past few weeks. These include the launch of three satellites designated Yaogan 39 Group 02, another group of three satellites called Yaogan 39 Group 03, the Yaogan 33-04 mission, and the Yunhai-1 04 satellite for research purposes.

China’s Solar System exploration plans showcase its ambition to further explore the Moon, Mars, asteroids, and even Jupiter. With a detailed roadmap in place and a series of missions planned over the next decade, China is poised to make significant advancements in space exploration.