It's an ambitious plan.
China is planning to kick off work on a Moon base using bricks made of lunar soil within the next five years, state-run news outlet CGTN reports, a sign the country isn't wasting any time in putting boots on the ground and establishing a permanent presence on the lunar surface.
The news comes as Chinese scientists held the first conference in the country dedicated to discussing the construction of a crewed Moon base, the South China Morning Post reports. More than 100 researchers from across the country took part in the conference to discuss everything from building basic infrastructure for the Moon to the use of robots and simulating the lunar surface back on Earth.
"Eventually, building habitation beyond the earth is essential not only for all humanity’s quest for space exploration, but also for China’s strategic needs as a space power," Ding Lieyun, a scientist at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology, told state-run news outlet China Science Daily during the conference, as quoted by the SCMP.
Ding helped construct an egg-shaped habitat prototype, which is made up of 3D-printed bricks made from lunar soil. Ding's team had a robot called Chinese Super Mason lay these bricks on top of each other.
The idea is to reduce the amount of material needed to be sent from Earth, while making the construction process as straightforward as possible.
According to the SCMP, Ding and his team are hoping to construct the first bricks on the surface of the Moon in just five years' time as part of the country's Chang'e-8 mission.
Long before then, the country's space program is planning the first-ever sample return mission to the Moon's far-less-studied far side. That mission, dubbed Chang'e-6, is a collaboration with French scientists, according to state-owned news outlet China Daily, and is scheduled to kick off as soon as 2025.
More on China's space program: China Constructing Huge Megaconstellation in Orbit