China says 2020 Mars mission progressing smoothly

Image of Mars, courtesy of CNSA.

China’s space agency, the China National Space Administration (CNSA), has confirmed its 2020 Mars mission consisting of an orbiter, lander and rover, saying that the project is progressing smoothly.

Speaking at the 3rd Beijing International Forum on Lunar and Deep-space Exploration (LDSE 2017), taking place between 19-22 September 2017, the mission’s Chief Designer Zhang Rongqiao said that the spacecraft will carry a total of 13 types of payloads – 7 for the orbiter, and 6 for its rover .

This will be China’s first Mars mission, and also the first time a mission to Mars will attempt to achieve the three goals of orbiting, landing, and planetary exploration. Commenting on this, Zhang stressed the need to make full use of every Mars mission opportunity, which takes place only once every 26 months due to issues with orbital mechanics.

He said, “This is a rare opportunity. Our mission is a first in that we are launching an orbiter, lander and rover, and this will also bring about unprecedented challenges.”

“It will take 7-10 months for the probe to reach Mars and be captured by its orbit,” he added. “After that, the orbiter will be separated from the lander, and will orbit Mars to get a bird’s eye view of the planet. At the same time, the lander’s communications relay unit will be activated. The mission design will have to take into account the requirements for simultaneous orbiting and landing”.

China’s Mars mission was first announced in 2014, and is known as the Mars Global Remote Sensing Orbiter and Small Rover. Earlier this year, researchers from the China Academy of Space Technology, Beijing published a paper detailing the engineering and scientific objectives of the mission, along with technical specifications.

LDSE 2017, where the announcement was made, is a space exploration conference held every two years, organized by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). The conference invites international speakers and participants, with a heavy focus on science and engineering.

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