China has proposed to build a defence system against near-Earth asteroids, a senior space agency official said, as the country steps up its longer-term space ambitions.
Zhang Kejian, head of the China National Space Administration, did not provide further detail in his opening remarks at a ceremony for China’s space day in the eastern city of Nanjing.
China has made space exploration a top priority in recent years, aiming to establish a programme operating thousands of space flights a year and carrying tens of thousands of tonnes of cargo and passengers by 2045.
The European Space Agency last year signed a deal worth 129 million euros to build a spacecraft for a joint project with NASA examining how to deflect an asteroid heading for Earth.
China is pushing forward a mission where one space probe will land on a near-Earth asteroid to collect samples, fly back toward Earth to release a capsule containing the samples, and then orbit another comet, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The mission could take about a decade to complete, Ye said.
China and Russia signed a memorandum of understanding last month to set up an international lunar research station.