A manned mission to the moon by 2020 followed by the setting up of a permanent lunar station is now the aim of the Chinese space programme, reported South China Morning Post. The launch of a lunar satellite by as early as 2005, an unmanned moon landing followed by the deployment of robots on the moon's surface will be the next targets after China's expected first manned space flight this autumn, said Yuan Jiajun, president of the China Space Research Institute.
Multi-staged versions of 'Long March' or 'East is Red' rockets, launched from the Xichang space centre in Sichuan province, will be used for the missions. China has spent Yn19bn on its space programme since 1992. If successful, this year's manned launch will make China only the third nation to send men into space after Russia and the US.