China plans to land a rover on Mars by 2020.
“The USA, Europe and India have all sent probes to Mars,” said Wu Weiren, the designer of its lunar missions in an interview with BBC News. “We will orbit Mars, land and deploy a rover—all in one mission.
According to the Associated Press (AP), the chief administrator of the country’s space program confirmed the plan at a news conference on Friday. The mission was approved in January. Also around that time China announced its plans to land a probe on the moon’s far side.
“Our short-term goal is to orbit the moon, land on the moon and take samples back from the moon,” Weiren told BBC News. “Our long-term goal is to explore, land, and settle” the moon.
China National Space Administration head Xu Dazhe said the Martian undertaking is quite a challenge. “Only by completing this Mars probe mission can China say it has embarked on an exploration of deep space in the true sense,” Dazhe said at a press conference, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
According to the AP, China conducted its first manned mission to space in 2003. In the succeeding years, they launched a space station, known as Tiangong 1, in 2011; performed a spacewalk; and landed a rover on the moon.
Later in 2016, the country will launch the Tiangong 2, which will replace the Tiangong 1.
“The Mars environment is more complicated and adverse than that of the moon,” Jia Yang, lead developer of the Yutu lunar rover, told Xinhua News Agency back in 2014, when the Chinese displayed a model of their Mars rover. “We’re working to overcome the worst scenario—dust storms that will significantly lower the energy output of the solar battery.”
Currently, only NASA’s Opportunity and Curiosity rovers are active on Mars.
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