China is seeking to establish an international moon base, perhaps using 3D printing technology to build facilities there, the Chinese space agency said on Monday after its success with the Chang’e 4 spacecraft — the first moon landing of history on the hidden side of the Moon.
After Chang’e-4, four other lunar missions are planned, explained the China National Space Administration (CNSA), confirming the launch of a Chang’e-5 exploration module before the end of the year to collect samples and bring them back to Earth.
The latest of these missions will be aimed at testing equipment for an international lunar search base, Wu Yanhua, deputy head of China’s Lunar Exploration Program, told reporters at a briefing. “China, the United States, Russia and Europe are all discussing building a base or research station on the moon,” Wu said.
Scientists are conducting research to find out “if we can use 3D printing technology” to build lunar facilities, he added. China, whose space program is run by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), has made great progress by becoming the first country on January 3 to have a vehicle on the far side of the moon.
The Chang’e-4 module, which left Earth on December 8 and bears the name of the moon goddess in Chinese mythology, was carrying a small wheeled remote-controlled robot, the Yutu-2 (“Jade Bunny 2” ).
The latter left the probe a few hours after the moon landing to perform analyzes in the Von Karman crater, located in the South Pole-Aitken basin, the largest known impact crater in the solar system. It resumed last Thursday after hibernating for five days to protect itself from the cold.
“This will be the first time we will be able to study the origin and formation of the dark side of the moon and even the age of the moon,” said Wu Weiren, chief engineer of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program. .
The Chang’e-5 module was originally supposed to collect samples in the second half of 2017. But its launch was delayed by the failure in July of the same year of a mission to put into orbit a communications satellite shortly after takeoff of the Long March 5 Y2 rocket, which was also to be its launcher.
After the Chang’e-5 mission, China will launch Chang’e-6 to collect samples from the South Pole of the Moon and bring them back to Earth, Wu said. “We will decide whether to do it on the far side of the moon or the face closest to the Earth based on what Chang’e-5 has collected,” he said.
Then comes Chang’e-7, which will engage in “a complete exploration of the South Pole of the Moon”, including its topography, composition and its space environment.
Then the Chang’e-8 mission will conduct technological trials and “prior exploration for countries to build a lunar research base together in the future,” Wu said.