manonmoon.jpgForty years after the US staked its claim to the moon, China wants to go there as well.

China will launch its maiden unmanned mission to the moon in November, the culmination of the Chinese space programme that, like the US-Soviet space race of the 1960s, seems driven more by national pride than by any scientific rationale.

The forthcoming launch of the lunar orbiter, Chang'e I, is the first phase of country's moon exploration programme. The second phase will involve the launching of a moon rover, while the third phase will involve landing a rover on moon and getting it back to earth with lunar soil and stone samples.

Needless to say, this has all been done before. If Chinese scientists want moon rock to analyse, I'm pretty sure NASA could lend them some — the six Apollo missions between 1969 and 1972 brought back 842 pounds of rocks from the Moon's surface, much of it now gathering dust in museums around the world.

As for staking a claim, China has quietly shelved an earlier plan to send astronauts to the moon. So, EngagingChina would like to suggest to China's space mandarins a much cheaper option from an enterprising UK firm,

For just £16.75, they get:

  • A lunar deed showing the coordinates of a one acre plot and confirming your claim to one acre of prime lunar real estate
  • A document confirming the right to mine any mineral deposits on the plot
  • A map of the moon's surface, with the plot clearly marked
  • A copy of the Lunar Constitution and Bill of Rights
  • A copy of the original Declaration of Ownership

China has no immediate plans to cooperate with other space agencies in lunar missions although an official speaking at an international astronomical conference said China was “looking forward” to international cooperation in using space-based systems for effective disaster management.

Meanwhile, China has announced it will step up of its space programme and build its fourth satellite launch centre in Hainan province. The new site will be used for launching geosynchronous satellites, heavy satellites, large space stations and deep space probes. More here.

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