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China reveals names of new spacecraft to land taikonauts on moon

February 24, 2024

— China will "embrace the moon" with a new "dream vessel" designed to land taikonauts on the lunar surface in the next decade.

The China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) on Saturday (Feb. 24) announced the names for its next generation crew spacecraft and lunar lander after soliciting ideas from the Chinese public. The crew module will be known as "Mengzhou" (梦舟, "Dream Vessel" or "Dream Boat" in English), while "Lanyue" (揽月), meaning "embracing the moon," will carry China's astronauts to and from the lunar surface.

The choice of Mengzhou, according to the CMSA, reflects that sending taikonauts to explore the moon "carries the Chinese people's space dream" and ushers in a "new journey of space exploration." The new space capsule's name also continues a theme that started with the current crew and cargo vehicles, Shenzhou ("Divine Vessel") and Tianzhou ("Heavenly Boat").

China plans to build two versions of the spacecraft, one to service its Tiangong ("Sky Palace") space station and the other to fly crews to the moon. To distinguish between the two, the lunar model will be referred to as Mengzhou Y, adding the capital Chinese character "月" that means "moon."

The lunar lander "Lanyue" derives its name from a poem written by the late Mao Zedong, founder of the People's Republic of China. The Chairman's verse reads in part, "You can go up to nine heavens to embrace the moon," which as the namesake of the lander demonstrates the Chinese people's "boldness and confidence" in exploring the universe and landing on the moon, according to the space agency.

Both Mengzhou and Lanyue will be launched atop China's Long March 10 carrier rocket, which is now under development. The first launch of the new super-heavy booster is expected in the next couple of years.

The announcement of the names comes six months after the CMSA invited the Chinese public to submit their choice of monikers for the new spacecraft. By the end of September 2023, nearly 2,000 submissions were received from organizations and people representing "all walks of life." The proposals were reviewed by an expert panel hailing from aerospace, science and technology, Chinese culture and other fields.

The CMSA did not identify who suggested the chosen names but earlier said that the author(s) would receive a China Manned Space Engineering Office commemorative certificate and will be invited to view a future crewed launch.

In addition to developing the new spacecraft for sortie-type missions, the CMSA is also planning the construction of an International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) to carry out long-term exploration of the moon.


China state television graphic promoting the new names for the next-generation crew spacecraft "Mengzhou" (梦舟) and lunar lander "Lanyue" (揽月), which will bring taikonauts to the moon and its surface on scientific exploration missions by 2030. (CCTV)

Rendering of China's Mengzhou crew spacecraft (left) in lunar orbit with the "Lanyue" lander on a future China Manned Space Agency mission. (CMS)

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