CHINA / National

Lunar programme to be open to world
By Jiang Zhuqing (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-07-27 06:59

China's lunar exploration project will invite more international co-operation in its second and third phases, the project's commander-in-chief said yesterday.

In addition, China calls for the peaceful use of resources from the moon and beyond for the benefit of all people, Luan Enjie told an audience of about 300 Beijing college students.

Luan Enjie: Nation catches up
Luan Enjie: Nation catches up
Although China is still in the "initial stage" in tapping the moon and outer space when compared with the United States, Russia and Europe, the nation is catching up, Luan said.

The first phase of the Chang'e Project was solely accomplished by China through its own technology, products and designs, said Luan, former director of the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

However, lunar scientists from Europe, the United States and Russia have expressed their willingness to co-operate with China in its research of the moon and deep space exploration, he said.

He noted it was a pity that he, during his six-year tenure as CNSA director, had never "shaken hands" with his US counterpart of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the world leader in space exploration.

The ups and downs in Sino-US relations as well as the fear on the US side of leakage of space knowledge have hindered planned meetings between the chiefs of two space administrations, he said.

On the query of when China will approve its second stage of the Chang'e programme, Hu Hao, director of the Lunar Exploration Centre of the Commission of Science Technology and Industry for National Defence, said: "It is still too early to predict the exact approval date when research and arguments are still under way among Chinese scientists."

The plan calls for three phases in the Chang'e Project before China launches a manned lunar mission.

The first phase will send a satellite to orbit the moon, the second phase is to conduct exploration on the surface through the soft landing of a detector, and the third is to collect surface samples using a robot, which will then return to Earth.

After landing on the moon, the soft landing device will automatically unfold, and a narrow ladder will extend, allowing the rover to land on the moon's surface, according to Ouyang Ziyuan, the chief scientist of the lunar exploration programme.

Luan disclosed that about 20 universities and institutions are working on the design of the lunar rover, but "no candidate design has been able to meet the requirements of the lunar environment so far."

Many questions such as how to cope with the tremendous temperature difference, which ranges from minus 170 C to 130 C, as well how to execute navigation on the moon must be answered first, Luan said.