China’s First Lunar Image

China’s Chang’e 1, its first lunar orbiter, has captured its first lunar image:

China’s Premier, Wen Jiabao didn’t miss the opportunity to extra-emphasize the picture’s importance:

"It showcases eloquently that the Chinese people have the will, the ambition and the capability to compose more shining new chapters while ascending the science and technology summit."


Citing a letter from an overseas Chinese, Wen said that the farther the China-made satellite flew, the higher would the overseas Chinese hold their heads.


"The success shows it’s completely possible for China to make breakthroughs in priority projects and win decisive battles in the competition of new high technologies."

Whew. He didn’t mention, however, that the Japanese had just returned their own lunar images — but in high-definition. We discussed those last month.

Building on its success, will China venture into manned moon missions (excuse my alliteration)? Rumors have been flying, but it appears they are not true:

The head of China’s space agency has confirmed that his country has no plans to put a man on the Moon.

Sun Laiyan, chief of the China National Space Administration, said that the hurdles to manned space exploration are too great for the time being, and that his agency will concentrate on mechanical exploration.

"I have read reports by foreign media saying that China would carry a manned Moon landing in 2020, but I do not think there has been such a plan," Sun told the state run Xinhua News Agency at a press conference in Beijing.

"So far, our Moon mission only includes unmanned probes. But I believe one day China will send its own astronauts to land on the Moon. I hope I can see it happen."

But it appears China does have plans to launch a lunar rover:

"The success of the Chang’e-1 project has helped us train a professional team and will support the mission’s next aim of landing a rover on the moon," he said.

A remote controlled Moon rover will land in 2012 and a second mission in 2017 will try to bring back rock samples.

China has big plans for remote exploration of space. The country is building a new space centre on the island province of Hainan in the South China Sea, and in 2005 became the third nation to put astronauts into space.