China plans to go to the moon on a shoestring
BEIJING (AFP) Feb 14, 2004
China has announced lift-off for the first phase of its lunar probe program, revealing what appears to be a shoestring budget for its plans to send an unmanned satellite to the moon.

Funding for the project, which is to result in the satellite orbiting the moon in three years' time, has so far been set at a modest 1.4 billion yuan (170 million dollars), the Xinhua news agency said Saturday.

This compares with the US space shuttle program which guzzles more than three billion dollars in a single year.

China's lunar ambitions are divided into three stages, beginning with the satellite in 2007, followed by an unmanned vehicle landing on the moon in 2010, and another unmanned craft collecting lunar dust in 2020.

China became the third country after the United States and the former Soviet Union to achieve manned space flight in October last year, when astronaut Yang Liwei orbited the Earth 14 times.