China is looking to expand its space program extensively within just the next few years. Not only does the nation expect to build its own crewed space lab at some point, much like the International Space Station, but China also wants to send exploration missions to Mars as soon as 2020.
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"The Mars exploration program is well underway," said mission chief architect Zhang Rongqiao, at the Beijing International Forum on Lunar and Deep-space Exploration. "The payloads will be used to collect data on the environment, morphology, surface structure, and atmosphere of Mars."
The mission will send 13 different payloads to Mars all at one time. Six of these will be rovers that deploy from a lander, and they’ll roam Mars’ surface, collecting valuable data along the way.
Much like NASA’s Curiosity rover and the upcoming Mars 2020 rover, these machines will survey the red planet’s planetary features and propel scientific research by relaying data back to scientists on Earth for analysis.
The other payloads could be a mix of landers and orbiters intended to study other aspects of the planet, but full details have yet to be released.
The mission will blast off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in the Hainan Province aboard a Long March-5 carrier rocket in 2020. Once in space, it will take seven months for the spacecraft to reach Mars.
Following a successful orbital insertion, the spacecraft will release a lander that will touch-down in Mars’ northern hemisphere and deploy its rovers, starting a new frontier of space exploration for China.
The mission would help the nation catch up to India, Russia, and the United States in space exploration, but more importantly, the addition of new eyes exploring the planets around us promotes scientific discoveries that could benefit all humanity.