China eyes next-gen manned spacecraft

Updated 2017-03-09 10:01:50 Global Times

China hopes to lead the world in space technology by developing the next-generation manned spacecraft, a space mission engineer said on Tuesday.

The spacecraft being developed can operate in both low-earth orbit and moon landing missions, Zhang Bainan, chief designer of manned spacecraft at China Aerospace Science and Technology Cooperation, told Science and Technology Daily on Tuesday.

Among the world's new manned spacecraft, only the US' Orion spacecraft is capable of carrying out moon landing missions, Zhang said.

China's next-generation spacecraft is reusable, with a much higher capacity than other foreign spacecraft. It can hold up to six crew members in low-earth orbit and three or four for a moon landing mission, he said.

China lagged behind for about 40 years in first-generation manned spacecraft, but the new one will be competitive, Zhang noted.

China will send a spacecraft to orbit and land on Mars, and deploy a rover in July or August 2020, Wan Weixing, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and chief scientist of China's Mars exploration program, told the People's Daily on Monday when reviewing the government work report at the ongoing "two sessions."

The lander will touch down on the northern hemisphere of Mars, while the rover will explore the surface after a 7-month journey, and send data back in 2021, Wang said.

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