China plans to visit Mars, the Moon and other places beyond.

Three Chinese astronauts began a six-month mission to help build the country's space station.

China plans to visit Mars, the Moon and other places beyond.

Three Chinese astronauts began a six-month mission to help build the country's space station.

This is China's latest move to become a space leader for the next decade.

China launched the first module of its Tiangong space station, also known as "Heavenly Palace", last year. It intends to add additional modules, including the Mengtian science laboratory, before the end of this year.

It will launch a space telescope called Xuntian next year. It will be close to the station and dock with it for servicing or refuelling.

Tiangong will be able to produce its own power, propulsion and life support systems, as well as have its own living quarters.

China is the third country to have sent both astronauts and built a space station. This follows the Soviet Union (and Russia now) and the US.

It has ambitious goals for Tiangong, and hopes to replace the International Space Station (ISS) that is scheduled to be retired in 2031.

Because the US bans Nasa from sharing data with China, Chinese astronauts cannot access the ISS.

China's ambitions are not over.

It plans to collect samples from asteroids close to Earth in a few years.

It aims to send its first astronauts to the Moon by 2030 and to send probes to Mars and Jupiter to collect samples.

China is expanding its space role, and many other countries are also looking to reach the Moon.

Nasa intends to return to the Moon in 2025 with astronauts from other countries. It has already launched its giant SLS rocket at Kennedy Space Center.

Japan, South Korea and India are all working on their lunar missions.

India has already launched its second major Moon mission and plans to build its own space station by 2030.

The European Space Agency is currently working with Nasa to develop Moon missions. It is also developing a network lunar satellites for astronauts to better communicate with Earth.

China placed its first satellite in orbit in 1970, as it was subject to massive disruptions from the Cultural Revolution.

Only the US, France, Japan, and the Soviet Union were the other powers that have been able to go into space via this stage.

China has launched over 200 rockets in the last ten years.

It already sent an unmanned mission, Chang'e 5, to the Moon to collect and return samples of rock. It placed a Chinese flag on lunar surface, which was intentionally larger than the previous US flags.

China launched Shenzhou 14 to launch 14 astronauts in space. This compares with the 340 Americans and more than 130 Soviet Union (and Russia) astronauts.

There have been setbacks. A part of a Chinese rocket fell out of orbit in 2021 and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. Two launches also failed in 2020.

Xinhua, the Chinese state media, stated that at least 300,000. people worked on China's space projects - nearly 18 times more than those currently employed by Nasa.

In 2003, the Chinese National Space Administration was established with a budget of two billion Yuan ($300m, PS240m).

According to Chinese media, China has opened up its space industry to private firms in 2016. These companies now invest more than 10 billion Yuan ($1.5bn, or PS1.2bn) per year.

China is eager to improve its satellite technology for telecommunications and air traffic management.

Many of the satellites have military applications. These satellites can be used to spy on rival countries and guide long-range missiles.

Lucinda King is the space project manager at Portsmouth University. She says China isn't just focusing on high-profile missions in space. "They are prolific across all aspects of space." They have the political will and the financial resources to finance their plans.

China's Moon missions are partially motivated by the possibility of extracting rare earth metals from its surfaces.

Professor Sa'id Mosteshar of the London Institute of Space Policy and Law, however, claims that China would probably not pay to send multiple mining missions to the Moon.

He claims that China's ambition to launch a space program is more driven by its desire to impress the rest. It's both a projection of power, and a demonstration technological advancement.

Additional reporting by Tim Bowler and Jeremy Howell

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