China could put astronauts on moon in 15 years: expert

BEIJING Tue Mar 6, 2007 4:10am EST

Chinese watch the launch of China's first manned space flight at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the northwestern province of Gansu October 15, 2003. China's leading space vehicle expert predicts the nation will be able to send astronauts to the moon within 15 years, state media reported on Tuesday. REUTERS/China Photo

Chinese watch the launch of China's first manned space flight at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the northwestern province of Gansu October 15, 2003. China's leading space vehicle expert predicts the nation will be able to send astronauts to the moon within 15 years, state media reported on Tuesday.

Credit: Reuters/China Photo

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China's leading space vehicle expert predicts the nation will be able to send astronauts to the moon within 15 years, state media reported on Tuesday.

Huang Chunping, chief vehicle designer of the country's manned spaceflight program, said that goal was dependent on Beijing providing adequate funding and on holding successful project launches ahead of a moon launch, according to the Xinhua news agency.

"The goal to land an astronaut on the moon can surely be achieved in 15 years," Huang said while attending the annual full session of the country's top political advisory body.

A top Chinese space official said early last year that China's moon exploration program included a planned lunar fly-by in 2007, a soft landing in 2012 and the return of lunar samples by 2017.

Huang said that unexpected difficulties could affect the timetable, but he said he had "full confidence" on the development of the country's rocket industry, according to the report.

China's space program has moved ahead in the last several years. In 2003, China put a man in space, becoming only the third country to do so, after the United States and the Soviet Union, and launched a second manned space flight in 2005.

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