China's lunar ambitions keep growing: Beijing and the European Space Agency are discussing potential collaboration on a human outpost on the moon, reports the AP. The secretary general for China's space agency, Tian Yulong, first disclosed the talks about the envisioned lunar base in Chinese state media, and they were confirmed Wednesday by an ESA spokesman. The director general of the 22-member ESA, Johann-Dietrich Woerner, has previously described its proposed "Moon Village" as a potential international launching pad for future missions to Mars and a chance to develop space tourism or even lunar mining.
China arrived relatively late to space travel but has ramped up its program since its first manned spaceflight in 2003, more than 42 years after a Soviet cosmonaut became the first to reach orbit. Last week, the China National Space Administration launched an unmanned spacecraft on a mission to dock with its currently unoccupied space station. It plans to launch a mission to collect samples from the moon by the end of this year, and next year it plans to conduct the first mission to the moon's far side to bring back mineral samples. China was excluded from the International Space Station mainly due to US legislation barring such cooperation and concerns over the Chinese space program's strong military connections. (Read more moon stories.)