China will not be launching a manned mission to the Moon in the foreseeable future, says Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist of China’s Moon exploration program. He wants to clarify earlier news reports in the Chinese media that said Beijing would be putting a man on the Moon by 2010 with the establishment of a Moonbase soon afterwards. “We will explore the Moon certainly,” says Ziyuan, “but with unmanned spacecraft. One of our goals is to bring lunar samples back to China for analysis. We are interested in the minerals on the Moon. We will prepare an unmanned spacecraft to do this.”

Ziyuan says, “We are not setting a specific date for a landing on the Moon. We are just at the start of preparing plans for our exploration of the Moon. I am very confident that China will complete the first phase of its lunar exploration by 2010. It could be completed earlier by 2007 perhaps. First our spacecraft will take a ride around the Moon looking at its resources and environment. After that we will develop a soft-landing machine?Our aim is a space station not later than 2005.”

He does admit that China would like to have manned outposts on the Moon in future, “perhaps by 2020 or 2030.” He says, “The Moon could serve as a new and tremendous supplier of energy and resources for human beings. This is crucial to sustainable development of human beings on Earth. Whoever first conquers the Moon will benefit first. We are also looking further out into the Solar System,” he says, “to Mars.”

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