The race to the Moon is on. China is planning to construct a scientific research station in the lunar south pole in about 10 years.

Zhang Kejian, head of the China National Space Administration, made the announcement during a speech on "Space Day," reported the state-ran news agency Xinhua. Zhang also confirmed that a fourth lunar probe, the Chang'e-5, will be launched at the end of a year. Beijing is also planning to send a probe to Mars by 2020.

China's Lunar Plans

Details of the planned scientific research station remains unclear, but China has been setting itself up as a new leader in space exploration. This year, the Asian superpower successfully landed the Chang'e-4, an uncrewed lander, and Yutu-2, a rover, on the far side of the Moon.

CSNA recently released new images of the Von Karman Crater, a large and old impact crater in the Moon's South Pole-Aitken Basin.

The upcoming Chang'e-5 mission was originally scheduled to be launched during the second half of 2017 to collect lunar samples. However, it was delayed when the powerful Long March 5 Y2 rocket which was supposed to carry it to outer space failed in another mission.

The United States is also planning return and set up a permanent presence of the surface of the Moon and, eventually, send manned missions to Mars.

China To Begin Construction Of New Space Station

Zhang also revealed that the country will launch the core parts of its planned orbital space station, named Tiangong or Heavenly Place, onboard the Long March-5B rocket during the first half of 2020. The space station is expected to be in orbit by 2022, according to China's Manned Space Engineering Office.

Tiangong will replace the International Space Station, which has been in orbit for 20 years. The ISS, a collaboration between the United States, Europe, Russia, Canada, and Japan, will be retired by 2024.

China is now spending more money to fund space exploration more than any country in the world, excluding the United States. The country is also planning to explore and collect samples from near-Earth asteroid 2016HO3 and comet 133P in the main asteroid belt.

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