According to Wu Weiren, one of the leaders of the Chinese lunar research program, the two devices are expected to be 15 billion kilometers from Earth by 2049. This is 100 times the distance from Earth to the sun. The centenary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China will be celebrated in 2049.
Initial plans for “Interstellar Express” have already been revealed in China, but in an interview with China Space News this week, Wu said the mission is now officially part of China’s new five-year plan for space travel.
“This is about to happen,” says Mark Klein Wolt, an astronomer from Nijmegen who previously conducted a Dutch radio experiment on a Chinese satellite. If China says it will do something, it will. It is completely in line with their ambitious policy.
China is participating in a geopolitical space race with the United States. After a successful moon landing, plans are underway to create a manned Lunar Base with Russia. A Chinese robotic vehicle is expected to land on Mars next month and its space station is in the pipeline.
The two mirrored probes on the Interstellar Express near the Solar System will be closed in opposite directions. They’ll basically measure the interaction of the solar wind – electrically charged particles that the sun blows into space – with the extremely thin matter of interstellar space.
Just like the US space probe Voyager 40 years ago, Chinese planes fly over Jupiter or Saturn for the first time, as the giant planet’s gravity accelerates. One is flying through the distant planet Neptune in the year 2038. It has only been examined once before, in 1989 by Voyager 2.
In Chinese Space News, Wu described the project as “China’s contribution to the world and humanity.” Kline and Walt cared anyway. “Who knows, we might even be able to run a radio antenna on that antenna.”