China aims to reach Mars by 2020, to catch up in the space race with India, the US, Russia and the EU which have succeeded in sending probes to the red planet. China aims to launch a Mars probe around 2020 to carry out orbiting and roving exploration, followed by a second mission that would include collection of surface samples from the red planet, an official white paper “China’s Space Activities in 2016” said.
The Mars mission has become a prestigious for China’s multi billion dollar space programme which has made several advances including landing a rover on the moon, several successful manned missions as well as advanced programme to set up its own space station.
China’s attempts to send an exploratory probe to Mars called Yinghuo-1, in a Russian spacecraft in 2011 failed as shortly after the launch it was declared lost and later burnt during re-entry.
Progress of its Mars mission picked up after India’s Mangalyaan Mars mission accomplished with a low budget of USD 73 million caught the attention of Chinese as India reached the red plant well ahead of China.
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Zhang Rongqiao, chief architect of the Mars mission told media in August this year that China plans to send a spacecraft to orbit Mars, land and deploy a rover in July or August 2020.
The 2020 mission will be launched on a Long March-5 carrier rocket, the work horse for China’s space missions.
It will be launched from the Wenchang space centre in south China’s Hainan province.
The lander will separate from the orbiter at the end of a journey of around seven months and touch down in a low latitude area in the northern hemisphere of Mars where the rover will explore the surface.
China also displayed the rover which has six wheels, powered by four solar panels, two more than the rover sent to the moon.
Before that China will launch a lunar probe in 2018 to achieve world’s first soft landing on the far side of the moon to show case its spare prowess.
China has already landed a rover on the moon in the past but wants to explore the dark side of the lunar surface to carve out a niche for itself as it has not been done by other countries.