Space race: China may use a rocket they already have to put humans on the moon by 2030
China might use its long-existing Long March 5 rocket to put humans on the moon by 2030.
China might be able to land its first astronauts on the moon by 2030 if all goes as planned. And one of these plans includes adapting its long-existing Long March 5 rocket for the mission. The country has always had plans of sending humans to the moon but it was expected to happen later than 2030, after multiple rover and probe missions. News of China's new plans come in as NASA's Artemis mission, that's supposed to return humans to the moon by 2024, looks like it could face significant delays with the earliest possibility of landing being 2026 due to a problem with equipment and funding.
According to reports, this slip in Artemis' timeline could have prompted the Chinese government to speed up their plans. Long Lehao, the Chinese Academy of Engineering expert, is someone who is thought to be close to the space program and he has confirmed that there were plans to launch two rockets in 2030. And these two would be adapted versions of the Long March 5, one would be launched to send the lunar lander to orbit the moon and the other would be used to send a crew to meet the lander and descend to the surface. As per reports, it was thought that China might use the Long March 9 heavy lift rocket, which is currently under development, for its future moon missions, but this is unlikely to be ready by 2030.
Speaking at the 35th National Youth Science and Technology Innovation Competition, Lehao said that the Long March 5 will be upgraded for the lunar mission instead. However, the new Long March 5DY is not the only development need to get Chinese astronauts to the moon, they would also need a lunar lander to ascend to the surface and a spacecraft to return to Earth. Once the mission proceeds, the crew will transfer to the lander, go down to the lunar surface, and spend about six hours walking around before returning to space in the lander. This lander will then dock with the spacecraft and return to Earth. The scheduled six hours the crew will be spending on the lunar surface is a fragment of the 21 hours Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin spent on the moon on the Apollo 11 mission in 1969.
China's lunar exploration project has been in the news lately with the Chang'e 5 probe returning to Earth with 1,731g of lunar soil in December 2020. The next mission with Chang'e 6 is expected to come back with more samples from a different part of the lunar surface and is going to include an oribiter and lander. Chang'e 7 is expected to launch in 2024 to survey the moon's surface and is going to include an orbiter, lander, rover, and mini flying probe to search the lunar south pole for resources.
If NASA manages to stick to its schedule and launch astronauts to the moon by 2024, they will be on the lunar surface at the same time as the Chinese rover.
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