by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Sept 28, 2008
China set its sights Sunday on a manned trip to the moon and a space station after completing a historic mission that included the country's first space walk.
China laid out the ambitious targets after the return to Earth of its third manned mission, a 68-hour voyage hailed as a major boost to its space ambitions.
"We believe that as long as we can make further progress in science and technology, we can achieve the dream of a manned space flight to the moon in the near future," said Wang Zhaoyao, spokesman for China's manned space programme.
China was aiming to build a long-term orbiting space facility in 2020, followed by a manned lunar mission at an undetermined date, he said at a press conference.
Wang said China's plans called for new missions from 2011 aimed at developing the knowledge -- such as docking technologies -- required for long-term space habitation.
These would ultimately build up to a lunar mission, he said, although he did not give a date.
"We believe it is necessary for China to do (a manned lunar mission)," he said.
However, Wang did not specify whether that meant a lunar landing or merely an orbital mission.
China sent its first man into space in 2003, following up with a two-man mission in 2005.
The success of the programme has frequently given rise to speculation about a possible lunar mission, but Wang stressed that the technical capabilities of such an undertaking would be daunting even for China's fast-expanding space reach.
Zhai, 41, was watched on television by countless millions around the globe as his spacewalk vaulted China into ranks of the United States and the former Soviet Union as the only nations to complete a spacewalk.
The spacewalk was the highlight of the voyage and is considered an important step towards China's plans to building a space station.
The Chinese Space Program - News, Policy and Technology
China News from SinoDaily.com
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