China's ambition to land on the moon is not a secret but its space agency is reportedly in talks to acquire Soviet propulsion system designs originally intended to put humans on the Moon.

The space race between the US and the erstwhile-USSR during the Cold War period is well known with both nations trying to outdo the other. Now a Ukrainian firm is set to recreate for the Chinese a historic engine module developed by the former Soviet Union to land its first cosmonaut on the Moon.

The unique engine system will be crucial for accelerating China's efforts to land a man on the Moon as a half-done lunar lander design will save Chinese engineers years of developmental work. The lunar lander known as "Lunny Korabl" or Lunar Ship is a smaller, lighter, leaner equivalent of the American "Eagle" lander, which put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon in July 1969.

Popular Mechanics reports that Chinese officials asked the Ukrainians to rebuild the original lunar landing propulsion module using modern materials like new computing technology for the module's flight control system. As per the agreement, the Ukrainians will give China a new set of design documentation for the propulsion module, but the hardware itself will remain in Ukraine.

Earth as viewed from the Moon's surface RomoloTavani/iStock

China is likely to use the lander to build an even bigger one that could carry two or even three astronauts to the Moon. Unlike the Apollo 11 lander that relied on two separate single engines for descent and takeoff, the Lunny Korabl uses the same cluster of two engines for both the landing and takeoff.

China has already expressed its desire to not only land on the Moon and mine rare elements from there, but also use the natural satellite as a pit stop for future Mars missions. Nasa also has a similar idea of using either the Moon or its orbital area as a launching pad for Mars missions.