China’s coming off a very successful mission with the Chang’e 5 returning its samples to Earth recently. With one complicated and successful mission under its belt, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) has begun to talk about plans for future space missions. The agency outlined a new three-step plan detailing its plans for future moon and deep space exploration.
CNSA deputy head Wu Yanhua said that the agency had conquered its goals of “orbiting, landing, and returning,” and future missions would focus on “surveying, constructing, and exploiting.” Wu said “surveying” would see the agency explore space and the moon’s geological environment and other cosmic bodies. It would also investigate radiation in space.
The goal of “constructing” would be to master building infrastructure. The agency pointed to the relay satellite used for the Chang’e-4 probe supporting constant contact between the moon and Earth. Wu also noted the goal could involve investigating the construction of long-term water and electricity supplies, presumably for the moon.
The goal of “exploiting” has to do with human development of extraterrestrial resources. Wu says that is a common goal of interstellar probe missions all around the world. CNSA reportedly has a Phase 4 of the countries moon exploration plan underway and will include four missions that will slide into the Chang’e series.
The next mission would be Chang’e-6 and is expected to happen between 2021 and 2025. It will be a lunar material retrieval mission with the potential sampling location on the moon’s south pole or the far side of the moon. Where the next mission retrieves the samples depends on the Queqiao satellite. If it’s still functioning when Chang’e-6 launches, CNSA is considering sending the mission to the far side of the moon to take samples. Samples from the far side of the moon have never been collected by any space agency.