Asia Pacific / Science & Health

China unveils Mars rover for 2020 mission

Reuters

China has shown off the first images of the rover it plans to sent to Mars in mid-2020 to explore the surface for three months, the latest aim of its ambitious space program.

China in 2003 became the third country to put a man in space with its own rocket, after the former Soviet Union and the United States.

It has touted its plans for moon exploration and in late 2013 completed the first lunar soft landing since 1976 with the Chang’e-3 craft and its Jade Rabbit rover.

China’s next manned space mission will be in October ,and it is aiming for a manned moon landing by 2036.

State news agency Xinhua, in a report late on Tuesday, said the 200-kg (441-pound) rover would have six wheels and be powered by four solar panels — two more than the rover that China put on the moon, which was 60 kg (132 pounds) lighter.

“The challenges we face are unprecedented,” said Zhang Rongqiao, chief architect of the Mars mission, according to Xinhua.

The probe would carry 13 payloads, including a remote-sensing camera and a ground-penetrating radar, on a three-month exploration mission blasting off in July or August 2020, the report added.

“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,” it said.

The Beijing News said the area is not as good for solar power as the equator but the geographic conditions are better.

Advancing China’s space program is a priority for Beijing, with President Xi Jinping calling for the country to establish itself as a space power.

China insists its program is for peaceful purposes, but the U.S. Defense Department has highlighted China’s increasing space capabilities, saying it is pursuing activities aimed to prevent adversaries from using space-based assets in a crisis. Apart from its civilian ambitions, Beijing has tested anti-satellite missiles.

The U.S. Congress has banned NASA from engaging in cooperation with its Chinese counterpart due to security concerns.