Next Stop, Mars. China Plans to Launch Probe to Red Planet

By Bryan Grogan, March 4, 2019

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Wu Weiren, chief designer of China’s lunar exploration program, recently revealed that the country’s space program will continue its ambitious space exploration in 2020, with China now planning to send a probe to Mars. 

Wu, currently in Beijing for the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, one part of the Two Sessions’ (known in Chinese as Lianghui), also said that scientific findings made by recently launched Lunar probe, Chang’e 4, will be made available for members of the public who wish to view them, although no specific timeline for that has been given. 

Speaking outside the The Great Hall of the People, Wu acknowledged that China still lags behind countries like Russia and the US in terms of space exploration clout, and that more work needs to be done. Part of that comes in the form of a new Mars simulation base in arid Qinghai province. 

The base, which aims to recreate conditions on the Red Planet, cost RMB150 million, and opened on Friday, March 1 according to Global Times. With an area of over 53,000 square meters, and based in what some have called the place that best resembles Mars on Earth, scientists are seeking to re-enact and plan for problems that they might face on Mars. 

Earlier this year, in January, officials also announced their plans to further their lunar exploration program, just days after the succesful landing of Chang’e 4. With four more lunar probes, Chang'e 5, 6, 7 and 8, set to launch in the coming years, China wants to transport samples taken from the Moon back to Earth, explore the South side of the Moon and also lay technological groundwork for a planned base on the Moon.  

Accordingly, Chang’e 5 will be sent to join Chang’e 4 at the end of this year and will be used to transport Moon samples back to Earth. China’s increasingly ambitious lunar program will see them close the gap between space pioneers US and Russia, as they will become just the third nation to bring samples from the Moon back to Earth. 

WATCH: Chinese Lunar Probe Lands on Moon's Far Side

[Cover image via Wikimedia]

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