China was "losing no time" in preparing its first lunar orbiter, Chang'e I,
which will most likely be launched in the second half of this year, a space
official said yesterday.
"The moon probe project is the third milestone
in China's space technology after satellite and manned spacecraft projects, and
a first step for us in exploring deep space," said Sun Laiyan, chief of the
China National Space Administration.
Sun, also vice director of the
Commission of Science Technology and Industry for National Defense, made the
remarks when briefing students at Beijing Jiaotong University on China's space
Plans for a lunar orbiter launch in 2007 were included in
China's white paper on its space program, unveiled last year.
China became only the third country - after the United States and the former
Soviet Union - to launch a man into space aboard its own rocket. In October
2005, it sent two men into orbit and planned a space walk by next year.
China's moon exploration program is divided into three phases -
"circling the moon," "landing on the moon" and "back to earth," said
The launch of the orbiter is the first phase of China's moon
exploration program, and the second phase will involve the launching of a moon
rover, he said.
Earlier reports said the moon rover will be launched
In the third phase, another rover will land on the moon and
return to earth with lunar soil and stone samples, Sun said.
technology reflects a nation's overall power and is an important facet of the
modernization of national defense," he said.
Sun said China is able to
research, produce and shoot ground-to-ground, air defense and coastal defense
missiles, and its strategic nuclear deterrent is a key component of China's
"As late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping pointed out, if China had no atomic
bombs or hydrogen bombs and had not launched its first satellite since the
1960s, China could not be called an influential country and would not enjoy the
same international status,'' he said.
Modern war relies heavily on
information and high-tech, supported by space technologies, Sun said.