China has ambitious plans to launch a mission to Mars in the next couple of months.
Bejing is fixing on a launch for the red planet with the aim of landing a remote-controlled rover on the surface. That launch could come as soon as July.
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) is the main contractor for the country’s space program and confirmed the plans over the weekend.
The company said in a statement: ‘This big project is progressing as planned and we are targeting a launch in July.’
The mission is known as ‘Tianwen’ and will involve placing a probe in orbit around Mars before trying to land a rover on the surface.
The move will be a show of strength for the Chinese space programme and a challenge to the United States, which has previously sent four rovers to the planet.
The U.S., however, has banned most space co-operation with China out of national security concerns, keeping China from participating in the International Space Station.
Despite that, China’s ambitions continue to grow as it seeks to rival the U.S., Russia and Europe in space and cement its position as a regional and global power.
It is gradually constructing its own larger, more permanent space station in which it has invited foreign participation.
This latest mission to Mars follows China’s successful mission to land a lunar rover on the dark side of the moon in January 2019.
Any spacecraft launched towards Mars will take several months to get there as the planet lies about 31 million miles away.
‘After the probe is launched, it will take about seven months to reach Mars, and the final procedure of landing will only last about seven minutes, which is the most difficult and the most risky part of the whole mission,’ said the Mars mission’s chief designer, Zhang Rongqiao, last year.
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