China has approved the fourth phase of its lunar exploration program, including a basic model of a research station built on the moon over the coming decade, according to the China National Space Administration.
Wu Yanhua, deputy director of the administration, said China would carry out lunar exploration in the future Chang'e-6, Chang'e-7 and Chang'e-8 missions.
As planned, Chang'e-7 probe will be launched to the south pole of the moon first. Since Chang'e-6 is a backup of Chang'e-5 sample-return mission, it will be launched after Chang'e-7 to bring back samples on the lunar south pole. Chang'e-6 mission will be followed by Chang'e-8, a step toward building a model of a lunar scientific research station.
"We also prepare to work with Russia to build the basic model of the lunar research station," Wu said in a recent interview. "The construction of the station will lay a solid foundation for us to better explore the lunar environment and resources, including how to use and develop lunar resources peacefully."
The Chang'e-5 probe was launched in 2020, having retrieved a total of 1,731 grams of lunar samples. China is currently operating Chang'e-4 lander and the Yutu 2 rover on the far side of the moon. They made the first-ever soft landing on the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the lunar far side in 2019.