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China has had a bumper few years in space exploration, and its ambitions are about to get bolder. The China National Space Administration has released an overview of its plans for the next five years, which include launching a robotic craft to an asteroid, building a space telescope to rival the Hubble and laying the foundations for a space-based gravitational-wave detector.

The missions were highlighted in a white paper, ‘China’s Space Program: A 2021 Perspective’, released last month. The plans continue the country’s trend in emphasizing missions with science at their heart, rather than technology development and applications, says Shuang-Nan Zhang, an astronomer at the Institute of High Energy Physics in Beijing. “This is a very good sign,” he says. “It’s a continuous increase in investment in exploration of the Universe.”

Nature looks at five of the most ambitious projects.

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