China is looking to put its first astronauts around the end of the decade and we're now getting glimpses of how this plan may play out.
A next-generation crewed spacecraft and a lunar lander for the China National Space Administration appeared during a lecture by Wu Yansheng, chairman of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the country's main space contractor and builder of spacecraft and Long March rockets, on Dec. 20 broadcast by the China Central Television (CCTV).
The pair of animated spacecraft are shown docking while orbiting the moon, before cutting to show an astronaut bearing a People's Republic of China flag descending from the lander onto the lunar surface, and later a pair of astronauts, a planted flag and possibly a rover in the foreground.
Chinese lunar landing: Today CASC chairman Wu Yansheng gave a presentation on a new space journey to build a powerful space nation, or some such. It also included CCTV broadcasting renders of the new-gen crew spacecraft in orbit with a lunar lander system. https://t.co/gWmftUPzBn pic.twitter.com/4Yn3zfch6dDecember 20, 2022
While just animations, there is substance behind them. CASC is known to be working on the various aspects needed to make a crewed lunar landing happen, with other senior space officials stating that a short term lunar mission could be possible before 2030.
A new-generation rocket is being developed to launch the new crew spacecraft, while work is underway on a lunar lander. The country also has its own moon project in answer to NASA's Artemis program, known as the International Lunar Research Station.
China completed its Tiangong space station in low Earth orbit in 2022 in what was a record year for Chinese launches, but the country clearly already has its sights on greater and more distant human spaceflight ambitions.
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Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for Space.com in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and others. Andrew first caught the space bug when, as a youngster, he saw Voyager images of other worlds in our solar system for the first time. Away from space, Andrew enjoys trail running in the forests of Finland. You can follow him on Twitter @AJ_FI.