Beijing (AFP) – China is targeting a launch in July for its ambitious plans for a Mars mission that will include the landing of a remote-controlled robot on the surface of the red planet, says the company responsible for the project.
Beijing has invested billions of dollars in its space program in an effort to catch up with its rival in the United States and confirm its status as a major world power.
The Mars mission is among a number of new space projects conducted by China, including putting Chinese astronauts on the moon and having a space station in 2022.
Beijing had planned the Mars mission sometime this year, but the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) has confirmed it could come as early as July.
“This major project is progressing as planned and we are aiming for a launch in July,”
CASC is the main contractor for China’s space program.
Called “Tianwen”, the Chinese mission will put a probe into orbit around Mars and land robotic robbers to explore and analyze the surface.
It will take several months to cover the approximately 55 million kilometers (31 million miles) distance between Earth and Mars, which is constantly changing due to their planetary orbits.
China has already completed a similar mission to the moon, and in January 2019 a small rover landed on the dark side of the lunar surface and became the first nation to do so.
The United States, which has already sent four exploration vehicles to Mars, intends to launch a fifth this summer. It should arrive around February 2021.
The United Arab Emirates plans to launch the first Arab probe into the Red Planet on July 15 from Japan.