China has unveiled details of its first mission to Mars, expected to be launched in 2020. On Tuesday (23 August) the Chinese State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence released images of designs for a probe and rover that will make their way to the Red Planet, state news agency Xinhua reported.
The mission is scheduled to launch in mid-2020 from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Centre in the southern Chinese province of Hainan, although the spacecraft will not reach Mars till 2021.
The Rover will weigh around 200kg and would have six wheels, with which it will navigate the Martian surface for three months, powered by four solar panels. Part of the mission will be to examine the distribution of water and ice on the planet's surface, as well as analysing its inner structure. All in all, according to authorities, the probe will carry 13 different devices including a remote-sensing camera and a ground-penetrating radar, to study the soil, environment and atmosphere.
"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," the Xinhua report said.
If the mission is successful, China will become only the second country to land a rover on the planet after the US, although a joint European-Russian mission is currently on its way there.
China has shown increasing interest in its space programme in recent years. Earlier this month it launched the world's first quantum enabled satellite, while its Jade Rabbit lunar rover ceased operations after more than two and a half years exploring the Moon's surface. In addition, it has also recently built the world's largest radio telescope, designed to explore space and search for alien life.