CHINA will launch its fifth lunar probe, the Chang'e-5, in 2017 to bring back samples from the surface of the moon in the final step of the country's unmanned lunar project, the project's chief scientist said yesterday.
In a public lecture, Ouyang Ziyuan said: "The research outcomes of the Chang'e-5 will provide key and basic information for sending the first Chinese astronaut onto the moon and even build a lunar base in future."
He said there was still no timetable yet for putting a man on the moon but the government has said it would happen shortly after the completion of the "three-step" unmanned lunar project, according to a white paper on the development of space industry.
China is to launch its third lunar probe, the Chang'e-3, in the second half of next year in the second step of the project which will see the country's first moon rover patrol the lunar surface, Ouyang said.
The Chang'e-3 will also observe space from the moon's surface as the lack of atmosphere allows better viewing than from Earth. The program could help build a telecommunication network that covers a future Mars probe, he said.
China's lunar probe projects have achieved several breakthroughs since 2006, with the successful launching of two lunar probes, the Chang'e-1 on October 24, 2007, and the Chang'e-2 on October 1, 2010.
The first lunar probe retrieved a great deal of scientific data and a complete map of the moon while the second created a full higher-resolution map of the moon and a high-definition image of Sinus Iridium, the area chosen as a landing site
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