(From Popular Science)
By Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer
Lieutenant General Zhang Yulin, deputy commander of China’s manned space program, announced that the country would land a man on the moon in the next 15-20 years. Chinese authorities also announced their intention to launch a robotic Mars mission in 2020, complete with orbiter, lander and rover, along with a possible Martian soil sample return by 2030.
There are several key steps if China is going to make this happen. The official state newspaper, China Daily, noted that China would need a super heavy launch rocket capable of boosting at least 100 tons of payload into low Earth orbit. In addition to China National Space Agency (CNSA) concepts exploring using three heavy Long March 5 rockets to launch pieces of a manned lunar mission for terrestrial orbital assembly, China is beginning development of the super heavy Long March 9 (LM-9) rocket. With a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) payload of 140 tons (50 tons for a trans-lunar injection trajectory), the LM-9 is in the same weight class as the American Saturn V and Space Launch System. It’s envisioned to have three stages, with the first stage consisting of four booster rockets, a quadruple double engine core stage (each individual engine would have a thrust of 480 tons), all liquid-fueled. Read more