31 July 2012
China’s third lunar probe will blast off in the second half of 2013 and attempt to land and transmit back a survey of the moon’s surface, state television reported late Monday. If it succeeds, experts said it would be the first craft to land on the moon as part of a mission — as opposed to performing a controlled crash landing at the end of one — since the Soviet space programme achieved the feat in the 1970s. “They (China) want a space programme that can be considered one of the finest in the world,” said Morris Jones, an independent space analyst based in Sydney, Australia. “If you want to be world leader in space, then you have to do missions like this.” The landing planned for next year would be China’s first on the lunar surface and mark a new milestone in its space development. It is part of a project to orbit, land on and return from the moon, the official Xinhua news agency said. Beijing sees its multi-billion-dollar space programme as a symbol of its rising global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party’s success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation. The Asian superpower has been ramping up its manned activities as the United States, long the leader in the field, has scaled back some of its programmes, such as retiring its iconic space shuttle fleet.