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The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has received government approval to send three orbiters to the moon as part of the Chang'e lunar programme, said Liu Jizhong, director of the China Lunar Exploration and Space Programme Centre.
According to Bloomberg, the announcement came a day after the discovery of a new mineral in soil samples delivered from the Moon to Earth by the Chang'e 5 spacecraft. The mineral has been named Changesite-(Y). As described by Xinhua News Agency, it is a colourless, transparent columnar crystal and contains helium-3, which is available in very small quantities on Earth. Its isotope is to be used as a future energy source.
China has advanced its space programme significantly in recent years, sending probes to the Moon, building its own space station and targeting Mars, becoming a direct competitor to the US. China and the USA are both eyeing minerals from the Moon and are expected to become a new source of tension for mining them.
China's Chang'e Moon exploration programme began in 2004 and the first spacecraft was launched three years later. It takes its name from the Chinese moon goddess and has recently focused on collecting samples from the lunar surface. China is now developing the Chang'e-7 mission. It will target the Moon's southern pole, where scientists believe it stands the best chance of finding water. NASA has also made no secret of its interest in the region.
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