China is playing catch up with India in the Mars exploration race Nasa

China is planning a mission to Mars that will be "better" than India's effort, officials have said.

India's first Mars probe reached the Red Planet earlier this month, becoming the first country to do so on its first attempt in history.

According to China's Xinhua news agency, China has also now set its sights on Mars, with experts revealing the country's interest in further space travel.

China made its first foray into space travel a few years ago and last December landed its lunar rover Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, on the surface of the moon.

Ouyang Ziyuan, a leading scientist in China's moon programme, announced the country's plan to send a rover to Mars in around 2020.

jade rabbit
Jade Rabbit proved a lunar success China Space/Facebook

Ye Peijian, a leading design adviser for China's Chang'e-2 and Chang'e-3 moon probes, said: "India has gone ahead of us. We already lag behind (India) in time, so we should do it better."

Ye said China has the technology to send a probe to orbit and land on Mars in one mission and has called for a mission to Mars a number of times.

China is currently developing its Long March 5 rocket, which would carry probes to near Earth asteroids, Venus and Jupiter, as well as supporting an unmanned Mars landing.

Long Lehao, chief designer of the carrier rocket series with the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, said the rocket should be launched by the end of next year and will vastly improve China's space exploration abilities.

"Generally speaking, we will have a more powerful rocket than India," Long said, adding China could launch a much larger probe than India.