Less than two weeks after the Chang’e-4 lander’s history-making touchdown on the moon’s far side (sometimes called the dark side), China’s space agency announced on Monday that they plan to establish an international lunar base.
“We hope that Chang’e-8 [the last of the four planned missions of China’s lunar exploration program] will help test some technologies, and do some exploring for the building of a joint lunar base shared by multiple countries,” Wu Yanhua, deputy head of the China National Space Administration, said at a press briefing.
The announcement doesn’t come as a surprise. Apart from the fact that Chang’e–4 has already succeeded for the first time in human history to perform biological growth experiments on the lunar surface, Namrata Goswami, an expert on China’s space program, predicted before the lander’s launch that China’s long-term goal is to establish a base on the moon.
“China views this landing as just a steppingstone, as it also views its future manned lunar landing, since its long-term goal is to colonize the moon and use it as a vast supply of energy,” Goswami, who wrote about space for the Defense Department’s Minerva Research Institute, told the Times.
Basking the mission’s success, the China National Space Administration, which also confirmed its intention to send a robotic probe to Mars in the 2020 time frame, discussed plans for future lunar missions.
The Chang’e-5 probe will head for the moon by the end of the year to collect lunar samples, Xinhua news agency quoted Yanhua as saying.
Following that mission, China will launch Chang’e-6 with the goal of bringing back samples from the lunar south pole. Future launches will be followed by Chang’e-7 and Chang’e-8, which will respectively conduct surveys of the south polar region and test new technologies for building a research base on the moon.
If the ambitious Chang’e program — named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology — is successful, China will have taken a significant step in the space race.