China made public on Wednesday specific designs for its manned lunar mission that is scheduled to be achieved before the end of this decade.
Speaking at a space industry forum in Wuhan, Hubei province, Zhang Hailian, deputy chief planner at the China Manned Space Agency, said the current plan is to launch two Long March 10 carrier rockets to transport a lunar landing module and a manned spacecraft, which will carry astronauts, to a lunar orbit.
After reaching their preset orbital position, the landing module and the crew spacecraft will rendezvous and then dock with each other, and then astronauts will enter into the landing module.
As soon as all preparations are done, the two craft will separate while the landing module will descend toward the lunar surface and conduct an engine-assisted soft landing.
On the moon, astronauts will drive a rover to carry out scientific tasks and collect samples.
Upon the completion of their assignments, astronauts will return to the landing module, which will fly them back to lunar orbit to dock with their spacecraft.
In the final stage, astronauts will go back to their spacecraft with the samples and the spaceship will undock with the landing module and carry the crew back to Earth.
"To achieve this goal, designers and engineers are developing the Long March 10 rocket model. The rocket will have three and a half stages and will have a liftoff weight of about 2,200 metric tons, capable of sending a 27-ton spacecraft to the lunar transfer orbit," Zhang said.
The new manned spacecraft is also in the middle of research and development, according to him.
"It will have an overall weight of 26 tons and will consist of three components — an escape tower, a re-entry capsule and a service section," the planner said, noting that the new spaceship will feature reusability and module designs that can fit both near-Earth and deep-space explorations.
He also gave technical concepts of the lunar landing module and the crew's rover.
The landing craft will have two parts — a landing section and a propulsion section, and will have a weight of nearly 26 tons. It will accommodate two astronauts.
The rover will have a weight of 200 kilograms, four wheels and a host of scientific equipment.