China is aiming for Mars, and it wants the world to know that it’s making significant progress in reaching the red planet.
On Tuesday, Chinese State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense unveiled a set of images offering the first glimpse of the designs for the probe and rover it plans to use in an ambitious mission to Mars in mid-2020.
As part of the mission, China will send a spacecraft to orbit Mars and deploy a rover on the planet’s surface, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, adding that the mission would be launched on a Long March 5 carrier rocket from the Wenchang satellite launch center in south China's Hainan province.
Weighing around 200 kg (441 pounds), the rover would have six wheels and be powered by four solar panels while operating on the planet for three Martian months. The probe would reportedly carry 13 payloads, including a remote-sensing camera and a ground-penetrating radar to study the soil, environment and atmosphere of Mars. It would also study the distribution of water and ice and the planet’s inner structure.
“The lander will separate from the orbiter at the end of a journey of around seven months and touchdown in a low latitude area in the northern hemisphere of Mars where the rover will explore the surface,” the Xinhua report added.
While the launch of the mission is scheduled for July or August in 2020, the spacecraft is expected to reach Mars by 2021, South China Morning Post reported, citing China National Radio.
China has turned into a superpower in space exploration in recent years. In 2003, it became the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to send a man in space with its own rocket. In late 2013, China performed the first “soft landing” on moon since 1976 with the Chang'e-3 spacecraft and deployed the Jade Rabbit rover.
If the 2020 Mars mission is launched successfully, China will become the fifth country after the U.S., Russia, Europe and India to orbit Mars.