The space program of the People’s Republic of China is directed by the China National Space Administration (CNSA). Its technological roots can be traced back to the late 1950s, when the People’s Republic began a ballistic missile program in response to perceived American (and, later, Soviet) threats. However, the first Chinese crewed space program only began several decades later, when an accelerated program of technological development culminated in Yang Liwei’s successful 2003 flight aboard Shenzhou 5. This achievement made China the third country to independently send humans into space. Plans currently include a permanent Chinese space station in 2020 and crewed expeditions to the Moon and Mars.
Mission to Mars and beyond
See also: Yinghuo-1
Sun Laiyan, administrator of the China National Space Administration, said on July 20, 2006 that China would start deep space exploration focusing on Mars over the next five years, during the Eleventh Five-Year Plan (2006–2010) Program period.
The first uncrewed Mars exploration program could take place between 2015–2033, followed by a crewed phase in 2040-2060. The Mars 500 study of 2011 prepared for this manned mission.
Moreover, in order to make crewed flight in deep space toward Mars safer, a space weather forecast system will be completed by 2017 with the Kuafu mission satellites placed at the Lagrangian Point L1.
The Chief designer of the Shenzhou spacecraft has stated in 2006 in an interview that:
Carrying out space programs is not aimed at sending humans into space per se,
but instead at enabling humans to work in space normally,
also preparing for the future exploration of Mars, Saturn and beyond.
— CAS Academician Qi Faren
The PRC’s space program has several goals. The China National Space Administration policy white paper lists its short-term goals as:
Build a long-term earth observation system
Set up an independent satellite telecommunications network
Establish an independent satellite navigation and positioning system
Provide commercial launch services
Set up a remote sensing system
Study space science such as microgravity, space materials, life sciences, and astronomy
Plan for exploration of the moon
Among their stated longer term goals are:
Improve their standing in the world of space science
Establish a crewed space station
Crewed missions to the moon
Establish a crewed lunar base
Unmanned mission to Mars