Like NASA, China is also planning to send a crewed mission to the Moon. According to the country's space contractor, China is looking to build its own base on the lunar surface and eventually send astronauts to Mars. For years, NASA has been working on various stages of its new spaceflight program known as Artemis. As confirmed by the space agency, the first major project under the new program will be a return mission to the Moon. According to NASA, the lunar expedition will pave the way for the agency's first human mission to Mars.
However, it seems NASA isn't the only agency that's interested in sending astronauts to the Red Planet. Recently, China's state-run space contractor China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp unveiled its details regarding a crewed mission to the Moon. According to the company, China's new space programs are focused on sending astronauts to the Moon in order to establish lunar outposts where scientific experiments will be conducted. Like NASA's plan, China's manned mission to the Moon will serve as the groundwork for a future human expedition to Mars.
"The next steps in [China's] manned space programs will be manned exploration of the moon," the company said in a statement to China Daily. "[We will] set up bases on the moon to conduct scientific operations, expand a habitable place for mankind and gain experience and expertise for deep-space expeditions beyond the moon. "The long-term goal is to send humans to Mars."
Although the company did not go into detail regarding the objectives of China's Mars mission, Chinese scientists believe that it would provide a perfect opportunity to look for traces of alien life on the planet. As noted by Pang Zhihao, a space technology researcher from Beijing, the similarities between Earth and Mars suggest the possibility of microbial alien life thriving on the Red Planet.
"Sending astronauts there will give man better opportunities to look for traces of life on Mars," space technology researcher Pang Zhihao told China Daily. "This is important because in our solar system, Mars resembles Earth the most, so research into the possibility of the existence of life there will enable us to better understand the origin and evolution of life on our mother planet."
China has already started its new batch of Moon missions with the launch of the Chang'e-4 lunar rover. Although it is not yet clear when the country will go to Mars, local experts estimated that human missions to the Red Planet could take place before 2050. NASA, on the other hand, previously revealed that it is planning to launch its Mars mission sometime in 2038.