China plans base on the moon to exploit mineral resources: report
19 May 2002
China, which is pushing ahead with a fledgling space program, plans to establish a base on the moon in order to exploit its mineral resources, state
media reported Sunday.
"Our long-term goal is to set up a base on the moon and mine its riches for the benefit of humanity," the Beijing Morning Post said, citing Ouyang Ziyuan, an official with the Chinese space program.
The paper said China has adopted a three-step plan that will eventually make it possible to fly to the moon.
China first wants to put an astronaut in space, then establish a space laboratory, and eventually set up a space station, the paper said.
The paper quoted Wang Zhuangyin, a leading space-program engineer, as saying China would probably be able to achieve manned space flight by 2005.
This is more pessimistic than reports in the Chinese media earlier this year which suggested it would be possible within the next two years.
Wang told the paper that China currently has 12 trained astronauts "awaiting orders."
If successful, China will become the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to put a human into space.
China earlier this year launched its third successful unmanned test flight.
The Shenzhou III, or "Divine Vessel III," traveled 108 times around the earth on a flight that ended April 1.
Western diplomats in Beijing say China's space efforts are mainly symbolic and aimed at raising awareness of science and technology among its 1.3 billion citizens, while invoking nationalistic pride.
But the program also offers significant scientific and technological advances to Chinese scientists.
In addition, it provides the military -- the main administrator of the space program -- with a range of space-based applications, they said.