China aims to be able to put man on moon, build space station in 15 years

Budget permitting, China wants to be able to put a man on the moon and build a space station in 15 years, a space program official said Sunday.

"I think about 10 to 15 years later, we will have the ability to build our own space station and to carry out a manned moon landing," Hu Shixiang, deputy commander in chief of China's manned space flight program, said in Hong Kong.

But the goal is subject to full funding, Hu said, explaining that China's space program must fit in the larger scheme of the country's overall development. He said China wants to master the technology for a space walk and docking in space by 2012.

China is developing its space program at its own pace, not competing with the U.S., Hu said. Hu is visiting Hong Kong following China's second successful manned space mission, together with the mission's two astronauts, Nie Haisheng and Fei Junlong. He made his comments in a televised question-and-answer session with news executives.

The two astronauts orbited Earth for five days last month aboard the Shenzhou 6 capsule, traveling 3.2 million kilometers (2 million miles). China's first manned mission was in 2003, when astronaut Yang Liwei orbited for 21 1/2 hours. Hu stressed that China intends to explore space for peaceful purposes, saying Beijing "is willing to work hard with people around the world for the peaceful use of space."

Chinese space officials want to study the possibility of making rockets with 25 tons capacity _ three times the capacity of exiting rockets _ but the government hasn't approved the funding, he said. Hu dismissed suggestions that the space program is too costly in a country that while growing rapidly, is still struggling to eradicate poverty in the countryside, the AP reports.

The recent space mission cost 900 million Chinese yuan (US$111 million; Ђ95 million), compared to the 190 billion yuan (US$23.5 billion; Ђ20.1 billion) China spent on combating pollution last year, he said.


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