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22 февраля 2016, 22:21

China pressing ahead with orbiter and lander mission to Mars

China pressing ahead with orbiter and lander mission to Mars

China's space agency displayed a mock-up of the proposed rover at the 2014 Zhuhai Air Show.

China appears to be moving forward with its Mars ambitions, as a key space official has confirmed that work is continuing toward launching an orbiter and lander by 2020 or 2022.

“We are aiming to use the launch window of 2020," Dr. Wu Ji, director-general of the National Space Science Center in Beijing, told the website gbtimes. “If we miss that window, it will be 2022. So it is quite urgent.”

Further Reading

China pressing ahead with orbiter and lander mission to Mars

Red Mars? Discovery of surface water spurs Chinese interest in lander

Local media says China continues to progress toward a 2020 launch of an orbiter, lander.

There has been discussion about the mission for several years, but the new report provides some additional detail about science payloads for both the orbiter and lander, including a ground penetrating radar. China also appears to be interested in further investigating the possible presence of methane and its implications for extant life on Mars.

The article says that China may include international partners on the mission. This likely means Europe or Russia, as NASA is precluded by Congress from working with China on space endeavors. NASA, too, is planning its own 2020 mission to Mars.

A Chinese spacecraft that reaches to Mars and safely lands would be a real coup. In its rivalry with India, China was upstaged in 2013 as India's Mars Orbiter Mission successfully reached and explored the red planet. However, only two countries have ever softly landed spacecraft on Mars. The United States has done so half a dozen times; and the Soviet Union landed Mars 3 on the red planet in 1971, although the vehicle failed after sending back about 15 seconds of data.

With a successful lander that returns meaningful data, then, China could surpass even Russia and the former Soviet Union in its surface explorations of Mars.

Source: http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/02/china-pressing-ahead-with-orbiter-and-lander-mission-to-mars/