Jan 15, 2019 | By Thomas

China wants to be the first country to establish a base on the moon and will be using 3D printing technology to build facilities, the Chinese space agency said Monday, weeks after landing a rover on the far side of the moon.

Officials from the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said that the forthcoming Chang'e-5 mission will be launched before the end of the year, and will bring Moon rock samples back to Earth. Three successive missions will further explore the barren surface of the moon and test equipment for an international lunar research base.

"Chang'e-5 will return mission sampling from the surface of the Moon around the end of this year," said Dr Wu Yanhua, deputy director of the CNSA and deputy commander of Lunar Exploration Programme. "Our country's first Mars exploration mission will take place before and after 2020."

After Chang'e-5 returns lunar rocks from the surface the next mission, China will launch Chang'e-6 to bring samples back from the south pole of the moon. "Whether the probe will land on the near side or the far side of the moon, we will make the decision according to the performance of Chang'e 5," Wu said.

Chang'e-7 will study the land surface, composition, terrain and space environment.  Chang'e-8 will focus on scientific surveys and experiments, such as testing important technologies needed to construct a science and research base on the Moon. It will explore possibilities of building a lunar base using 3D printing technology.

"For example, can we build houses on the moon with lunar soil using 3D printing technology?" Wu said. "We hope that Chang'e 8 will help test some technologies, and do some exploring for the building of a joint lunar base shared by multiple countries." Wu said.

China successfully achieved a global first with its trip to the far side of the moon when the Chang'e-4 lunar probe landed in the Von Kármán crater on January 3. The lunar probe and its rover, Yutu-2, transmitted the first-ever "close range" image of the far side of the moon last week.

"From the images sent back from Chang'e 4, we can see the area surrounding the probe is dotted with craters of different sizes, and it's very difficult for the rover to drive in the region," explained Sun Zezhou, chief designer of the Chang'e 4 probe.

"We'll try to find the relatively safe areas and make a reasonable plan for the route of the rover based on the images taken by it," Sun added, "we haven't found any insurmountable obstacle in the region."



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