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Soldier in front of the launch site of the Shenzhou-16 spacecraft in China (picture from May)

Photo: Kevin Frayer / Getty Images

China aspires to become a great space power. Within the next five years, the country plans to send its first reusable spacecraft into space, according to reports.

The spacecraft is comparable to the latest generation of U.S. ships such as SpaceX's Dragon V2, the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post reported. The Chinese spacecraft, which does not yet have a name, is said to be larger and about twice as heavy as the Dragon V2. The vehicle will be able to transport up to seven astronauts and launch between 2027 and 2028, the Chinese state newspaper "Guangzhou Daily" quoted the deputy chief engineer of the Chinese space program, Yang Liwei, as saying on Monday. Accordingly, the spacecraft will also be used in the planned manned moon landing of the Chinese.

China is pursuing an ambitious space program in order to quickly catch up with the major spacefaring nations of the United States and Russia. 20 years after China became the third nation to send its own astronauts into space, the People's Republic now operates a modern, fully functional space station and explores the Moon and Mars. The leadership in Beijing is concerned with national prestige, but also with global technological leadership, which is to be challenged by the United States.

According to the head of the US space agency Nasa, Bill Nelson, the US sees itself in a "space race" with China. While China wants to send astronauts to the moon for the first time by 2030, the USA is planning a manned landing on the Earth's satellite again from the end of 2025 with the "Artemis" project.

The first unmanned moon landing was achieved by China in 2013. Earlier, the country was excluded from the International Space Station (ISS) due to concerns from the United States. Since 2022, China's own space station has been permanently occupied.