A manned lunar landing is China's next target when the current three-stage space program expires in 2020.
"When the three-phased strategy in our manned space program is completed, we will travel even further terrestrially," Wang Zhaoyao, deputy head of China's manned space program office and Shenzhou-7 mission spokesman, told a briefing in Beijing three hours after China's third manned space mission successfully concluded Sunday.
"After comprehensively analyzing the general trend in international manned space developments, as well as Chinese realities, we see a manned lunar landing as both a very challenging and tactical field in global hi-tech," he said.
"We deem it necessary for our country to do something in this field," Wang said.
He did not give a specific date for a moon landing.
Wang, however, said experts believe this is "very much needed" for research into relevant technologies to further China's achievements in space.
The 68-hour Shenzhou-7 mission featured a 20-minute spacewalk on Saturday.
It was broadcast live and watched by millions throughout the country.
The crew's landing at a site in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region was also carried live by national television.
The entire mission was pronounced a complete success and a terrific morale booster.
Wang said the three astronauts, on re-entry, were transported to Hohhot, the region's capital, and would spend the evening there.
They will return to Beijing this morning, he said.
"During the course of the mission, Russian experts provided strong technical support for the EVA spacesuits. The successful Sino-Russian collaboration during this flight created beneficial conditions for more intensive cooperation between the two sides in the future," Wang said.
The mission's success has paved the way for completing the second stage of the program -- building a space station before 2020.
Before that, a space lab will be set up in 2010 with Shenzhou-10, the country's next full-crew space journey.
(China Daily September 29, 2008)