We know everything about the Western lunar program, thanks to the enormous media coverage provided by Western countries, almost all involved in the Artemis Program.
But if NASA and its partners have stated that the landing date will not be before 2025, little has always been leaked about the programs that CNSA (China National Space Administration), has towards the human landing on our satellite.
2023 is becoming a watershed year for communication-related to Chinese missions.
The veil lifts
Breaking the veil of secrecy that has so far distinguished them, the leaders of CNSA have begun to reveal their plans for the human landing on the Moon. Already in January, a model of the new manned spacecraft and a model of the lunar landing module was exhibited.
The spacecraft has already made two unmanned flights where it was successfully tested the Skip-Reentry maneuver (already tested by the Soviet Zond and Artemis I) necessary for re-entry into the atmosphere from external trajectories from Earth orbit.
Landing in 2030?
The mission profile that should lead the Taikonauts (as astronauts are called in China) to tread the lunar regolith, unlike that of the Artemis program, provides for a double launch of the Long March-10 heavy launcher.
In the first launch, the piloted vehicle, in the second, the lunar module coupled with the upper stage necessary for entry into the TLI (trans-lunar injection). After docking in Earth orbit, the space train will depart for our satellite.
A piloted circumlunar mission is not foreseen in the plans of the Chinese space agency: the first flight with Taikonauts on board will be the landing one.
During a press conference, held last January, the Road Map of the lunar program was defined in these three significant steps: by 2025 a sample return mission to the lunar South Pole, in the Aitken Basin, the site chosen for the construction of the future permanent scientific base.
After two more robotic missions, by 2030 the landing.
Another critical point that differentiates the Artemis program from the Chinese one is the absence of a permanent orbital station like the Gateway. The Chinese program envisages the construction of the outpost on the surface immediately and this construction will be automated in the first phase.
According to what was announced in the recent conference, held on Apr. 8, 2023, on extraterrestrial construction, at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology, a special pressurized module is expected to descend to the surface of the Aitken Basin as early as 2028.
By excavating three environments around it and using inflatable habitats and 3D printing techniques, it will create a Clover-shaped structure that will later be made habitable by crews setting foot on the moon.
The Chinese authorities intend to make the lunar outpost an international scientific research laboratory. It remains to be seen whether the international political situation on Planet Earth will affect collaboration on the surface of our natural satellite.