China has already laid out plans to launch a lunar orbiter in the second part of 2007. This is one of the initial steps towards a lunar probe. The first half of any project to the moon involves a probe while the second and the most important part is to make an attempt to land it on the lunar surface.
That means, the Chang’e I orbiter will have to be launched first, After that, China will have to send one more mission that will have to travel all the way to the moon, then land on the lunar surface and ultimately gather samples before returning to earth. In a speech at Beijing Jiaotong University, Sun Laiyan said, “The moon probe project is the third milestone in China’s space technology after satellite and manned spacecraft projects, and the foremost step for us in exploring deep space.”
China became only the third country in 2006 after United States and the former Soviet Union to launch a ‘Taikonaut,’ as they are called in China, into space aboard its own rocket. Next year, China is also planning to carry out a full-fledged space walk. There are future plans to dock two orbiting vehicles.
The National Space Administration of China is planning to send a moon rover by the year 2012. The Lunar Orbiter launch will mark a beginning of a new era in China and will begin a journey that could end with Taikonauts landing on the moon.
Let’s hope our very own Chandrayaan, the unmanned lunar mission by the Indian Space Research Organization also goes off smoothly. We can sure expect a space race between the two new technology powerhouses, something similar to what happened a few years ago between the United States and the erstwhile Soviet Union!