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Asia Minute

Asia Minute: China Updates its Plans for Space Exploration

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China plans to send a mission to Mars within the next four years. That’s just one of the ambitions the government announced this week in a new five-year plan for space exploration. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

The United States and the Soviet Union paved the way for space exploration and travel. But some of the most ambitious plans for the future belong to China.

The Beijing government released a new five-year plan for space this week with some very specific targets and some vague language.

The specifics include a goal of landing a probe on the far side of the moon sometime in 2018, and sending a similar mission to Mars by the year 2020.

Longer term, China wants to build a space station with a permanent crew by around 2022 and explore deep space as part of its continuing research.

Some of the vague language concerns the role of the military in all of this.

The government white paper says China wants to “utilize space for peaceful purposes,” but also wants to use space to “protect China’s national rights and interests, and build up its national comprehensive strength.”

What exactly that means is less clear.

The Pentagon has taken a cautious view of potential military applications of China’s space program.

China’s first crewed mission was launched only in 2003—but in the years since, the country has made its space program a priority.

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