China Aims for Mars 2020

China is setting up increasingly ambitious goals regarding space exploration. After Chang’e 4 landed on the far side of the moon on Jan. 3, the country is already planning its next space excursion — Mars 2020.

Wu Yanhua, deputy chief of the National Space Administration, said Beijing hopes to launch its first Mars probe by the end of the decade to carry out orbiting and roving exploration, followed by a second mission that would include collection of surface samples.

Two weeks ago, Chang’e 4 landed on the far side of the moon for the first time in human history, and transmitted the first-ever “close range” image of the moon’s lesser-known side. As this was China’s second visit to the Moon after the successful landing in 2013, China has become the first country in the world to complete the soft landing of the detector on both the front and back of the moon.

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In addition, China is developing its own space station, Tiangong or Heavenly Palace in English, which officials said is expected to be fully operational around 2022. It will most likely become the world’s only space station if the US-led International Space Station will be retired as planned.

There are also discussions about building an international research station on the moon.

“China, the United States, Russia and Europe are all exploring whether to build a research base on the moon, perhaps by making use of moon soil and constructing with 3D-printing technology. Chang’e 4 will do some preliminary exploration so that the countries can build a lunar research base together,” Wu said.

China is becoming a major player in space exploration, and contributing to scientific discovery. “Exploring the unknown is human nature. The moon is a mysterious world to us. We have a responsibility to explore and to understand it. Exploration of the moon will also deepen our understanding of earth and ourselves,” Wu added.

Featured photo credit to 视觉中国