China appears to be nearing its dream to put a man on the moon, with an official saying this week that it would “not take long” before Beijing approved a manned lunar project.
Yang Liwei, deputy director general of China Manned Space Agency, said China is making “preliminary preparations” for a manned lunar mission, state media said.
China confirmed in 2016 its intentions to carry out the mission – which was been touted in recent years one of the key targets of its ambitions plans for space exploration.
But officials speaking at the Global Space Exploration Conference in Beijing this week have gave a clear indication that planning has begun.
According to a report by Xinhua news agency, Mr Yang, who was China’s first man space in 2003, told a group interview that “it will not take long for the project to get official approval and funding.”
The report did not provide any specific date.
It continued: “Wu Yansheng, president of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), also said that China is working on a manned lunar landing plan.”
The mission will consist of a manned spaceship, a propulsion vehicle and a lunar lander, Xinhua said, citing Mr Wu.
China in 2003 became the third country to put a man in space with its own rocket after the former Soviet Union and the United States.
Ten years later it became the third country to carry out a lunar rover mission.
The country also plans to land the first probe ever on the dark side of the moon in 2018, another milestone.
An official said last year that China aims to land a man on the moon by 2036.
China’s spece program is seen as a symbol of the country’s rising global stature and technological advancement, as well as the Communist Party’s success in reversing the fortunes of the once impoverished nation.