China plans to build the first-ever moon base within the next ten years. The China National Space Administration (CSNA) intends to build a scientific research station near the Moon’s south pole. Zhang Kejian, the head of CSNA, announced the plan during a speech marking “Space Day” for the country.
The space agency also announced an ambitious plan to put a new space station into orbit in the coming years. The first parts of that station will reach orbit aboard the country’s new Long March-5B rocket next year. The announcement also included details for lunar and Mars probes to be launched later this year.
China wants to become the new leader in space exploration. According to reports in Agence France-Presse (AFP), China currently spends more on spaceflight than any country except the U.S. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimated its 2017 budget was US$8.4 billion.
While the details of China’s long-term lunar plans are still being worked out, its space agency has made significant steps in lunar exploration in recent years. Its uncrewed Chang’e-4 moon lander successfully landed the on the far side of the moon in January carrying equipment from Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. The country has also placed astronauts aboard two temporary space stations, Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2.
American officials have also suggested that there are plans to return to the moon and find a way to stay on the planet for an extended period. The six successful NASA Apollo moon landings between 1969 and 1972 were near the moon’s equator. There are also plans being discussed to replace the International Space Station (ISS) as it nears the end of its life. ISS, a collaboration between the United States, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan, is scheduled to be retired in 2024.