China wants to go to the moon

A Hong Kong newspaper has reported that China's space program has set 2024 as the date of the nation's first moon walk.  The Chinese space agency believes that it has the technology, funds and resources to safely send a man to the moon.  Assuming everything goes according to plan, China wants to land a craft on the moon by 2020 to collect soil samples and conduct other studies.

China's lunar program will begin next year after a satellite designed to orbit the moon is launched. The nation's first lunar orbiter, the Chang'e 1, will provide 3D images of the moon's surface and gather information on the thickness of its soil. The Register reports: 

Stage one (putting a man in space) has already been accomplished. Stage two, which will see China's first space walk, and will run from 2009 to 2015. Stage three involves sending an unmanned robotic sample-return mission to the lunar surface, and is slated for 2017.

China is one of only three nations that have sent astronauts into space aboard the nation's own domestic rocket.  Space exploration is a topic on the agenda for many nations and NASA is currently working on a permanent moon base that would be used as a stepping stone for astronauts to physically explore Mars.

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