China denies plans for manned Moon mission

China denies plans for manned Moon mission

Hurdles too great for the time being, says space chief

The head of China's space agency has confirmed that his country has no plans to put a man on the Moon.

Sun Laiyan, chief of the China National Space Administration, said that the hurdles to manned space exploration are too great for the time being, and that his agency will concentrate on mechanical exploration.

"I have read reports by foreign media saying that China would carry a manned Moon landing in 2020, but I do not think there has been such a plan," Sun told the state run Xinhua News Agency at a press conference in Beijing.

"So far, our Moon mission only includes unmanned probes. But I believe one day China will send its own astronauts to land on the Moon. I hope I can see it happen."
The statement contradicts earlier reports that China will attempt to put men on the Moon.

Sun spoke as the first pictures of the lunar surface from China's Chang'e-1 satellite were unveiled to the media. The satellite will survey the Moon from a height of 200km and aims to map the entire body.

"The success of the Chang'e-1 project has helped us train a professional team and will support the mission's next aim of landing a rover on the moon," he said.

A remote controlled Moon rover will land in 2012 and a second mission in 2017 will try to bring back rock samples.

China has big plans for remote exploration of space. The country is building a new space centre on the island province of Hainan in the South China Sea, and in 2005 became the third nation to put astronauts into space.