Photo taken on Dec. 27, 2016 shows the white paper, titled "China's Space Activities in 2016," issued by the State Council Information Office in Beijing, capital of China. China on Tuesday issued the white paper on its space activities in 2016 and major tasks for the next five years.
China announced ambitious plans to soft land a probe on the far side of the moon by the end of 2017 and launch its first Mars probe by 2020, according to a white paper on space activities released on Tuesday.
It will be the first probe of its kind in the world to reach the far side of the moon once the program is executed.
The white paper reviews China's aviation achievements since 2011, and outlines plans for the next five years. The country aims to become a major space power by 2030, and launch approximately 100 satellites in the next 10 years.
At present, only the U.S. and Russia can be called great space powers, while China, Japan, India and Europe fall in the "second category," with China holding a leading position in this group, said Song Zhongping, a military expert who served in the Second Artillery Corps (now PLA Rocket Force).
China has mastered manned space flight technology and has established its first space lab, Tiangong-2, but still lags behind the U.S. and Russia in terms of deep-space exploration (such as Mars and Venus) and super-heavy spacecraft-launcher, or heavy-lift launch vehicle, Song said.
Human exploration of the moon has gone through different stages. The U.S. and the former Soviet Union led the first stage of exploration during which the U.S. sent astronauts to the moon. China, Japan, Europe and India joined in the second stage later, and China is expected to lead lunar research with the planned landing, Wu Yanhua, deputy chief of China's National Space Administration, told a press conference on Tuesday.
Lunar exploration will prepare China in developing other space programs. "The journey to Mars also relies on technological know-how from lunar exploration. Should we build a transit point on the moon? It is possible," Wu said.
According to the white paper, China has planned to "fulfill the three strategic steps of 'orbiting, landing and returning' for the lunar exploration project." It has realized the first two steps, and the planned launch of the Chang'e-5 lunar probe by the end of 2017, which will soft land, sample and return to Earth, will realize the last step.
After Chang'e-5, China will launch the Chang'e-4 lunar probe around 2018 to achieve mankind's first soft landing on the far side of the moon and conduct in situ and roving detection and relay communications at Earth-moon L2 point.
According to the white paper, China will also activate a heavy-lift launch vehicle project in the next five years, which is the symbol of a great space power and a fundamental element of deep space exploration.
By 2020, China will launch its first Mars probe to carry out orbiting and roving exploration, and the Beidou network, a self-developed satellite navigation system, will have as many as 35 satellites, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
Currently, Beidou can cover the Asia-Pacific region, but it will eventually compete with the U.S.' GPS and provide comprehensive navigation services around the world, Song said.
The white paper says that in the next five years, China will provide space and aviation-related services to countries involved in the One Belt and One Road Initiative, such as satellite communications, navigation and weather forecasting analysis.
China will use outer space for peaceful purposes, national security and scientific research, according to the white paper.
The Chinese government advocates that all countries should have equal right to peacefully explore, develop and utilize space and celestial bodies.
Space activities should benefit economic development and social progress, guaranteeing peace, security, and the survival and development of the human race, reads the white paper.
Full text of the white paper