As the fourth phase of China's moon probe is underway, the man behind the China's lunar project talked to CGTN about the country's deep space exploration and planned moon missions for the next 15 years.
Wu Weiren, chief designer of China's Lunar Exploration Program outlined three plans for the country's lunar exploration for the next 10 to 15 years.
"First is the fourth phase of the moon probe that is already underway and involves Chang'e-6, 7 and 8 missions. We hope Chang'e-6 will retrieve 2 kilograms of samples from the south side of the moon, more than Chang'e-5 did," he said.
Wu said Chang'e-7 is expected to inspect the caves on the south side of the moon and see if there is water.
"Chang'e-8, planned to launch somewhere around 2028, will form a basic scientific base with Chang'e-7 – the base will have orbiter, lander, rover, ascender and multiple scientific exploration equipment," Wu said.
Wu said China is looking to build an International Lunar Research Station with other countries like BRICS members, and some European and Middle Eastern countries.
"Together, we will design, inspect, share the data and manage it together."
Wu said his team is studying to build a communication network based on the moon, connected to Earth, that can be expanded further to other planets.
China is making even further forays in its deep space exploration, with plans on asteroids, the Mars, even the edge of the solar system.
"We also have plans about the asteroids in the next 10 to 15 years," Wu said. "One of them is to retrieve samples from an asteroid."
"Since we all know how dangerous it is if asteroids hit Earth," he mentioned the UN has considered such an event as the No.1 existential threat for humans, "we are developing a plan to cope with it."
The plan can carry out "detection, early warning, disposal and rescue," including a mission to derail a threat by launching a striker from 10 million kilometers away.
Wu said within the next 15 years, China will also have a mission to retrieve samples from Mars, and explore the edges of the solar system, believed to be 15 billion kilometers away.
"Unprecedented" global collaboration
The interview with Wu came on the eve of the China-UN Global Partnership Workshop on Space Exploration and Innovation, held this week in southern China's Hainan Province. Wu said the workshop shows "China's sense of responsibility and its openness," which he calls the "starting point for our work."
He also retraced how cooperation had grown in past endeavors. "We worked with international teams in China's moon probe project, including Chang'e-3, 4 and 5 missions … and cooperated especially in scientific payload and research," he said. The collaboration also includes researches on the data collected by the probes.
In the future, Wu anticipates "higher-level, and broader cooperation."
"Because deep space exploration can never be done by one country alone, it's a project for the entire humankind and needs global contribution," he said.
He also said that for future moon probe program "we expect cooperation to reach unprecedented levels. For example, we can build an International Lunar Research Station together."