China’s Mars exploration program has been formally approved by the central authorities, Xu Dazhe, director of China National Space Administration, announced on Friday.
“The Mars probe is expected to orbit the red planet, land and deploy a rover all in one mission, which 1is quite difficult to achieve,” Xu told the media in Beijing.
Xu said the Chinese government has the Mars mission in early this year. China’s space budget was still only about one-tenth of the United States’ outlays, Xu said.
Stressing the Mars mission’s importance, he said that although China has sent spacecraft deep into space, “only by completing this Mars probe mission can China say it has embarked on the exploration of deep space in the true sense.”
China plans to send a rover to Mars around 2020, and land by 2021, to explore the Red Planet and launch 150 long range carrier rockets in the next five years for its ambitious space missions.
China also said this week that it would launch a “core module” for its first space station some time around 2018, part of a plan to have a permanent manned space station in service around 2022.
Wang Zhongyang, spokesman for the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, toldXinhua agency on Thursday that the “core module” for the space station would be called the “Tianhe-1”, the Chinese word for galaxy or Milky Way.
“If the International Space Station, which has extended its service, is retired by 2024, China’s new space station will be the only operational one in outer space,” Wang added.