China has released a white paper that lays out its plans for developing its space program over the next five years.
The document, published on Thursday, also states publicly for the first time that it’s a goal of the Chinese government to eventually send an astronaut to the moon, the Financial Times reported.
The white paper reveals that China plans to launch laboratories, manned spaceships and unmanned lunar probes into space by 2016, while making the technological preparations to construct space stations, the Associated Press reported.
“Chinese people are the same as people around the world,” Zhang Wei, an official with China’s National Space Administration, said at a briefing, the Financial Times reported. “When looking up at the starry sky, we are full of longing and yearning for the vast universe.”
According to the New York Times:
While a leader in the business of launching satellites, China is still years behind the United States in space. Its human spaceflight accomplishments to date put it roughly where the United States and the Soviet Union were in the mid-1960s.
However, the white paper indicates that China may not be playing catch-up for long.
“The one thing that is admirable about their program is they don’t have fits and starts,” Joseph R. Fragola, a space safety expert who has visited the space facilities in China, told the New York Times. “Their program is low budget but it is laid out, and they follow it in an orderly process, and we don’t do that.”
Although China’s space program is run by its military, Chinese officials maintain that they’re only interested in peaceful exploration, while possibly giving a boost to the Chinese economy, the AP reported. “China always adheres to the use of outer space for peaceful purposes, and opposes weaponization or any arms race in outer space,” Thursday’s white paper reiterated, according to the AP.