China: We’re Sending A Rover To Mars In 2020

(China Daily/via REUTERS)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Chinese state-run media released government plans to land an unmanned rover to Mars in 2020.

“The probe, for its part, will carry 13 payloads including a remote sensing camera and a ground penetrating radar which could be used to study the soil, environment, and atmosphere of Mars, as well as the planet’s physical fields, the distribution of water and ice, and its inner structure,” Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency, published in a Wednesday article.

China’s rover will weigh an estimated 440 pounds, making it much smaller than previous NASA’s most recent Curiosity rover, which weighs 2,000 pounds. The probe will be powered by solar panels.

China has an ambitious, military-run, multi-billion-dollar space program which the country’s government sees as symbolizing its rising global stature.

Since launching its first manned mission in 2003, China has sent up an experimental space station, staged a spacewalk and landed a rover on the moon. The country has also increased its cooperation in space with Europe and will launch its second space station this coming September.  China recovered an experimental probe launched from a new rocket design in June, marking a big step forward in its plans to go to Mars by the end of the decade.

China’s space program has faced problems however, as the country’s 2013 lunar rover had numerous mechanical problems and was ultimately abandoned. China’s first attempt to send a satellite into Mars orbit in 2011 failed when the rocket carrying it failed to make it into Earth’s orbit.

Meanwhile, NASA hasn’t launched an astronaut into space since 2011 without the help of the Russians and has been forced by the Obama administration to delay its Mars missions until 2030.

President Obama has twice stymied programs initiated during the Bush administration designed to take humans to Mars by leaking information to the press about them and threatening to veto the projects. Obama has repeatedly tried to slash space exploration funding and redirect it to Earth science programs — which just so happen to include climate modeling programs to measure global warming. Obama increased NASA’s budget for these environmental programs by 63 percent.

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