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In Five Years, China Will Start Building a Lunar Base With Bricks Made From Moon Soil

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China plans to start building a lunar base in about five years, kicking off with bricks made of moon soil, according to scientists with ties to the project, the South China Morning Post reported.

Ding Lieyun, a top scientist at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, told local media that the first brick would be made from moon soil during the Chang’e 8 mission around 2028.

China has previously said its lunar base will likely be powered by nuclear energy, and will include a lander, hopper, orbiter and rover, all of which would be constructed by the Chang’e 6, 7 and 8 missions. It wasn’t immediately clear in the interview if the entire base will be built with lunar soil.

“Eventually, building habitation beyond the Earth is essential not only for all humanity’s quest for space exploration, but also for China’s strategic needs as a space power,” Ding told the China Science Daily in a separate interview, according to the SCMP. The comments came as China held its first major conference in Wuhan to discuss building a manned lunar base, the report said.

China has already sent probes to the moon, built its own space station and is also setting its sights on Mars, as it vies with the US in particular to be the first to gain access to minerals and other resources found away from Earth.

The moon is believed to contain a source of waste-free nuclear energy that could meet global energy demands for 250 years, but experts fear nations may clash over the extraction of potentially hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of resources.

Yu Dengyun, from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, provided an updated timeline for the next three Chang’e missions, the SCMP reported. Chang’e 6 will launch in 2025 to collect samples from the far side of the moon, Chang’e 7 will blast off the following year to search for water-ice, while Chang’e 8 should land some two years after that.

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