China completes Mars exploration lander test ahead of 2020 mission

China has developed the powerful Long March 5 rocket to transport the probe to Mars in 2020.

China on Nov 14 completed a test of its Mars exploration lander ahead of Beijing’s first mission to the red planet slated for 2020. The test was conducted at a sprawling landing test site in Huailai, northwest of Beijing. Beijing is pouring billions into its military-run space programme, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022.

It was conducted in a facility that simulated conditions on Mars. A red platform with steel cables attached mimicked the planet’s gravity – which is about a third that of Earth as the lander descended from a tall, metal structure. Meanwhile, The test is “an important part” of China’s plans to land on Mars, added Zhang Kejian, director of the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

“Currently, all development work is going smoothly,” he asserted in a statement. The country is pushing to catch up with the US and become a “space power”, with ambitions of a manned lunar landing. Earlier this year it made the first ever soft landing on the far side of the moon, deploying a rover on the surface.

However, China’s first mission to Mars will focus on “orbiting and landing on Mars and perform a patrol survey on the surface,” Zhang Rongqiao, chief designer of China’s Mars mission, adding at Nov 14 test. “After the probe is launched, it will take seven months to reach Mars,” he added.

The final landing process will only last about seven minutes, but is “the most difficult and the most challenging part of the whole mission”. China now spends more on its civil and military space programmes than Russia and Japan, and is second only to the US. Although opaque, its 2017 budget was estimated at USD 8.4 billion by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Despite the same, China expects to complete a modular space station around 2022, around the time when NASA is said to start building a new space station laboratory to orbit the moon, as a pit stop for missions to other parts of the solar system, The report remarked. Consequently, China has been racing to catch up with Russia and the US and become a major space power by 2030.

Author: Trilok Singh, CEO here. (Inputs are based on recent reports).

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