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China is on track for 2020 mission to Mars




China’s plans to launch its first Mars probe around 2020 and retrieve soil and rock samples before 2030 are still on track, said Zhang Rongqiao, the mission’s chief designer. 
China aims to become the first country to conduct an orbital and surface exploration of Mars in a single mission, he said on Wednesday at an international forum on lunar and deep space exploration in Beijing.
The Chinese Mars probe consists of three parts: orbiter, lander and rover. It will carry 13 scientific instruments – seven in the orbiter and six in the rover, he said.The orbiter will collect data on Mars’ atmosphere, electromagnetic field, temperatures, surface landscape and other key scientific indicators, he added.The rover, weighing around 200 kilograms (440 lb), will focus on collecting surface data, as well as testing other equipment to pave the way for future sample retrieval missions between 2025 and 2030.Overall, China’s first Mars mission “is going smoothly and all according to plan,” Zhang said.Russia, India, the US and the European Space Agency (ESA) have probes orbiting Mars, but only the US has successfully landed a rover and carried out surface missions. Around 2020, NASA, the ESA and the United Arab Emirates will also launch Mars probes.Before 2020, China will launch an unmanned landing mission to the moon named Chang’e 4, as well as a moon sample retrieval mission named Chang’e 5. In the following years, China will explore asteroids and smaller bodies to understand the solar system’s origin and formation, and search for information on possible extraterrestrial life.

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