Artist impression of the Chinese Lunar lander on the Moon surface (Credits: CNSA)

“Clover Moonbase”: Chinese Plans of the Conquest of the Moon

CNSA reveals its plans for the human landing on the Moon. The Chinese lunar exploration: from rovers to the "Clover Moonbase"

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.

Artist's impression of China's new manned spacecraft and lunar lander (Credits: CNSA)
Artist’s impression of China’s new manned spacecraft and lunar lander. Credits: CNSA

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.

From left to right: the Chinese moon lander and the TLI booster and the new crewed vehicle, actually unnamed (Credits: CCTV)
From left to right: the Chinese moon lander and the TLI booster and the new crewed vehicle, actually unnamed. Credits: CCTV

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.

The lunar exploration roadmap (Credits: CNSA)
The lunar exploration roadmap. Credits: CNSA

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.


Clover Moonbase

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 “Clover Moonbase” construction steps and technical diagrams (Credits: CNSA)
The “Clover Moonbase” construction steps and technical diagrams. Credits: CNSA

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.


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Roberto Paradiso

Roberto Paradiso

Banker with a passion for cosmonautics, he tells in his blog, "Le storie di Kosmonautika" and in the book "Noi abbiamo usato le matite!" the history and stories of the Soviet and Russian space program and the people who made it.

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