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astronautix.com Chinese Lunar Base

Chinese on Moon
Chinese on Moon
Chinese astronauts with lunar rover plant the flag of the People's Republic of China's flag on the lunar surface - model at the Chinese Pavillion, Hannover Expo 2000.

Credit: © Mark Wade. 31,600 bytes. 527 x 386 pixels.


Class: Manned. Type: Lunar Base. Nation: China.

Beyond the initial Project 921 programmes for development of a manned earth orbit capability, Chinese scientists began talking during the course of 2000 of more ambitious plans for a lunar base. At Expo 2000 at Hannover the centre piece of the Chinese pavilion was a display of two Chinese astronauts planting the flag of the People’s Republic on the lunar surface. On October 4, 2000 Associated Press reported that Zhuang Fenggan, vice chairman of the China Association of Sciences, declared that one day the Chinese would create a permanent lunar base with the intent of mining the lunar soil for Helium-3 (to fuel nuclear fusion plants on Earth). On October 13, 2000, Xinhua News Agency reported a more definite timetable. These seemed to be the dreams of academics rather than a definite funded programme, but at least indicated the expected course of development during the 21st (‘Chinese’) Century:


China Lunar LV'sChina Lunar LV's - From left to right, existing Chinese manned program vehicles (CZ-2F and CZ-2E(A)) and proposed future vehicles (Type A, and Type C).

Credit: © Mark Wade. 19,172 bytes. 340 x 385 pixels.


In fact, with the flight of the Shenzhou and large Lox/LH2 upper stages on the CZ-3A booster, the Chinese have all the necessary technologies in place to allow them to pursue their lunar goals. The configuration of the re-entry capsule of the Shenzhou is the same as that of the Russian Soyuz. This was designed and flight qualified in the 1960’s specifically for return to the earth from the moon. A direct lunar-lander using the Shenzhou spacecraft would have a mass of about 60 tonnes and require a Lox/LH2 stage of the about the same size in order to propel it toward the moon.


Chinese Lunar LanderChinese Lunar Lander - Conceptual Chinese lunar lander.

Credit: © Mark Wade. 19,210 bytes. 640 x 231 pixels.


In fact, Chinese plans published in 1992 (by not funded at that time) were for a modular 306 tonne Lox/Kerosene booster stage and a 57 tonne Lox/LH2 upper stage that could be combined and clustered in order to achieve a variety of payloads in low earth orbit. This concept was very similar to the Russian Angara or American EELV (Atlas 5 or Delta 4). The largest variant discussed was the Type E, which would use seven booster units to achieve a payload of 70 tonnes to a 200 km x 500 km, 60 degree inclination orbit. Therefore two such launches - one of the lunar injection stage, one of the Shenzhou-derived lunar lander - could place the necessary payload into earth orbit. After docking with the booster stage, the Shenzhou would be boosted to a direct landing on the moon. The direct landing approach was shown in Russian studies of the 1970’s to be the most practical method for emplacment and support of a lunar base (lunar orbit rendezvous methods restrict possible base locations to a narrow band around the lunar equator).


Chinese on MoonChinese on Moon - Chinese astronauts with lunar rover plant the flag of the People's Republic of China's flag on the lunar surface - model at the Chinese Pavillion, Hannover Expo 2000.

Credit: © Mark Wade. 31,380 bytes. 563 x 369 pixels.


A lunar landing stage developed for a Shenzhou-derived return vehicle could also be used on a one-way trip to place moon base payloads of about 15 tonnes on the lunar surface. The breakdown of such a vehicle (using Lox/LH2 propellants with a specific impulse of 440 seconds in all stages) would be as follows:


Chinese Type E LVChinese Type E LV - The largest known Chinese launch vehicle, the Type E. This would consist of a cluster of six modular stages around a single module core.

Credit: © Mark Wade. 9,473 bytes. 141 x 480 pixels.



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Chinese on MoonChinese on Moon - Chinese astronauts with lunar rover plant the flag of the People's Republic of China's flag on the lunar surface - model at the Chinese Pavillion, Hannover Expo 2000.

Credit: © Mark Wade. 32,848 bytes. 389 x 513 pixels.



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Last update 12 March 2001.
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© Mark Wade, 2001 .