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26 Apr, 2021 16:31

China’s next probe will carry French, Russian gear to the Moon, asteroid defense system planned also

China’s next probe will carry French, Russian gear to the Moon, asteroid defense system planned also

As part of its major ambitions in the field of space exploration and development, China has confirmed that its next robot lunar lander in 2024 will feature equipment from France, Sweden, Russia and Italy.

No specific details were provided during the weekend’s press conference to mark the country’s 51st anniversary of space exploration. 

What is known about the mission is that the Chang’e 6 probe is expected to launch in 2024, and will eventually touch down near the lunar south pole to collect samples for return to Earth, according to the program’s chief designer, Hu Hao. 

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China is dramatically expanding its footprint in space, and reportedly also has plans in the works for a crewed orbital station, a mission to land a person on the Moon and another to collect soil samples from a passing asteroid, following the recent success of the Japanese mission to Ryugu. 

Zhang Kejian, head of the China National Space Administration, did not expand on these plans during a press conference to mark China’s Space Day in the eastern city of Nanjing.

These plans likely also include an asteroid defense system which would deflect or destroy Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs). This has been discussed previously but without much detail provided of what exactly it might entail. 

Meanwhile, China currently has a probe, Tianwen-1, in orbit around Mars, waiting to deploy a robot rover on the Red Planet. Chinese officials also unveiled the name of the country’s next Mars rover, Zhurong, during Saturday’s ceremony. 

As recently as March, China and Russia signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a lunar research station, further underscoring the eastern superpower’s ambitions in space, but with a more cooperative approach than previously.

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