SPACE EXPLORATION

China’s first mission to Mars will be hugely ambitious and be a chance to ‘outshine India’, says Beijing’s chief space scientist

The People’s Daily quotes chief Beijing scientist, saying Indians won race to put satellite in orbit around Red Planet, but putting rover on Mars will outdo their efforts

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 January, 2016, 3:42pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 January, 2016, 6:34pm

China’s first mission to Mars scheduled for 2020 will be one the most ambitious ever attempted and more complex than other maiden flights to the Red Planet carried out by other nations, according to a Chinese space scientist.

Other countries only carried out fly-bys on their first mission to Mars, but China will put a lander and rover on its surface, according to Yuan Minhui, the director of the Beijing Institute of Space Science and Technology Information.

READ MORE: China unveils first Mars rover and exploration system for red planet

Plans for the mission are now being drafted by the authorities, Yuan was quoted as saying by the People’s Daily.

The lander will carry a robotic rover that will “patrol” the Martian terrain Yuan said.

Rocket scientist Long Lehao was quoted as saying in the report that China was defeated by India two years ago in the race to put a satellite in orbit around Mars.

Long said the Chinese mission would use a much larger spacecraft with more challenging goals to outshine the Indians.

Pang Zhihao, a mainland space expert familiar with the mission, said the rocket launch was probably scheduled for 2020 as the Mars came closest to Earth roughly every two years. Due to the technical sophistication of the mission, China might not be ready by the nearest launch window in 2018.

The challenges to carry out the landing and the rover mission will be enormous.

Russia has carried out 17 missions to try to make a landing on Mars since 1960, but all have failed.

READ MORE: Lost in space? Nasa chief urges US to work with China on future manned space missions or risk getting left behind

The United States also encountered many failures until the successful landing of the Viking 1 mission in 1976.

Ye Peijian, a senior space scientist involved in preparing the mission, said China had acquired enough technology and experience to succeed.

“Then we can become a world leader in one step,” he was quoted as saying.