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China unveils design concept of Mars probe

BEIJING — China on Aug 23 released images of a Mars probe and rover which the country plans to send to the Red Planet within five years.

Picture released on Aug. 23, 2016 by lunar probe and space project center of Chinese State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence shows the concept portraying what the Mars rover and lander would look like. Image of China’s Mars probe was also released on Aug 23. [Photo/Xinhua]

China plans to send a spacecraft to orbit Mars, make a landing, and deploy a rover in July or August 2020, said Zhang Rongqiao, chief architect of the Mars mission at a press conference in Beijing. “The challenges we face are unprecedented.”

According to Ye Peijian, one of China’s leading aerospace experts and a consultant to the program, the 2020 mission will be launched on a Long March-5 carrier rocket from the Wenchang space launch center in south China’s Hainan province.

The lander will separate from the orbiter at the end of a journey of around seven months and touch down in a low latitude area in the northern hemisphere of Mars where the rover will explore the surface.

Images displayed at the press conference on Aug 23 showed a device with six wheels, powered by four solar panels, two more than the rover sent to the moon.

Weighing around 200 kilograms, it is designed to operate for three Martian months, according to Sun Zezhou, chief designer of the probe.

The probe, for its part, will carry 13 payloads including a remote sensing camera and a ground penetrating radar which could be used to study the soil, environment, and atmosphere of Mars, as well as the planet’s physical fields, the distribution of water and ice, and its inner structure.

A public competition for the name and the logo of the 2020 mission was also launched on Aug 23.