China Planning to Send Rover to Mars by 2020

China Planning to Send Rover to Mars by 2020

China's Mars rover will be larger, tougher and a better climber, experts said on Tuesday as the country plans to send a space mission to land a rover on the Red Planet by 2020.

China has not announced an official plan for a Mars probe, but Ouyang Ziyuan, a lead scientist in China's moon probe mission, has said China plans to land a Mars rover around 2020, collect samples and bring them back around 2030, state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.

The Mars vehicle will be larger, tougher and a better climber than "Jade Rabbit" which developed trouble after functioning well in initial stages.

On Tuesday, a real-sized model of the Mars rover went on display at the Airshow China 2014 in south China's Zhuhai City, offering a rare glimpse of the spacecraft still being designed. The rover was expected to be tested in the rugged terrains of Tibet.

With successful space missions to Moon as well as efforts to build a space station of its own, China made an unsuccessful attempt in 2011 to send its probe to Mars.

The success of India's Mars probe Mangalyaan appeared to have spurred the interest again in what was stated to be the most difficult by Chinese scientists.

"The difficulty of getting the orbiter into orbit around Mars is equal to hitting a golf ball from Tokyo into a hole in Paris," Pang Zhihao, a researcher with the China Academy of Space Technology told the official media in Beijing, hailing the success of Mangalyaan reaching Mars orbit.

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While planning the Mars mission, Chinese scientists are attempting to improvise the rover sent to explore moon.

"Our current concept is that it will have six wheels, like Yutu (Jade Rabbit), but will be larger in size and better at crossing obstacles," Jia Yang, who led the team that developed Yutu said.

"Yutu can climb over obstacles no higher than 20-centimetres, but has to bypass larger rocks. This will not work on Mars, where places are full of large rocks like in the Gobi Desert. So we must improve its adaptability to complex territory," he was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

Jia expects the Mars buggy to be solar-powered, its weight close to Nasa's Spirit and Opportunity rovers at about 180kg.

Nasa's latest Curiosity rover weighs 900 kg and is powered by nuclear battery, but Jia says the capability of China's carrier rockets limits the size of its Mars rover.

"The Mars environment is more complicated and adverse than that of the moon. We're working to overcome the worst scenario - dust storms that will significantly lower the energy output of the solar battery," Jia said.

He also said that they are still working on the capsule's parachute and heat-proof structure that will enable it to land in the extremely thin air, one of the hardest parts of the Mars mission.

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