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Moon race momentum: China reveals concept for possible Moon lander

A China Academy of Space Launch Technology (CAST) concept for a manned Moon lander appeared in a brief video produced by the China Manned Space Agency.
FPI / January 17, 2022


By Richard Fisher

A recent Chinese revelation of a concept for a manned Moon lander should add to concern that China is accelerating its target date for putting people on the Moon, in a new Moon-Race with the United States.

The images appeared in a brief video produced by the China Manned Space (CMS) Agency, showing that a potential Chinese manned Moon lander concept would be a development of the Chang’e-5 unmanned two-stage Moon lander.

Posts on Chinese space-related twitter pages on Jan. 10 credited the design to the China Academy of Space Launch Technology (CAST).

It will employ a larger first stage for landing on the Moon and then a smaller manned stage that would lift Chinese astronauts back into Moon orbit for rendezvous with the manned space capsule that would then return to Earth.

This CAST Moon lander concept is very similar to the 15.2-ton U.S. Apollo Landing Module, or Lunar Excursion Module, used six times to take U.S. astronauts to the Moon.

However, there are two main differences. First, the CAST concept employs crew stage based on the orbital module of the Shenzhou spacecraft, which is much smaller than that employed by the Apollo Lunar Module.

Second, the crew module apparently opens into a tunnel in the middle of the first stage, meaning that the crew take a shorter and safer ladder descent to the surface of the Moon.

Both of these features may contribute to a Moon Lander that likely will weigh much less than the Apollo Lunar Module.

This is important as the Long March-5DY space launch vehicle now in development may only be able to propel up to 26 tons to the Moon.

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