I International

China's deep space exploration continues as craft lands on moon

Six years after China’s failed mission to Mars, a successful moon landing rekindled the country’s interest of sending a spacecraft to the red planet.

China National Space (CNS) Administration Officials stated on Monday that China would send a probe to Mars around 2020 and a returnable spacecraft to the moon by the end of 2019.

The success of Chang’e 4’s mission to the far side of the moon marked a new stage for the country’s deep space exploration said Administration deputy director Wu Yanhua.

He added that “We welcome international collaboration in developing devices aboard the spacecraft as well as domestic and foreign investment…”.

Approximately in 2020, China plans to send a satellite orbiting around Mars and a rover which would make a soft landing on the red planet’s surface to collect data according to officials.

Mars has become interested in many countries, with Nasa in the United States, the European Space Agency, Roscosmos of Russia, and the United Arab Emirates Space Agency seeking to explore the planet in the coming decades. Elon Musk’s SpaceX even declared that it wants to build a city on Mars.

The first attempt by China to reach Mars failed when Russia’s Phobos-Grunt spacecraft carrying China’s Yinghuo 1 probe travelled beyond Earth’s orbit and broke up over the Pacific Ocean in 2012.

Wu Yanhua, from the CNS Administration, says that China has entered a new stage of deep space exploration. The mission for “Yinghuo” – literally meaning firefly in Mandarin - was bound to journey 54.6 million kilometres to orbit Mars.

Also, Nasa has struggled to reach March: Its Mars Polar Lander, launched in 1999, did not even land and lost contact before it reached the planet.

Meanwhile, China plans to continue sending crafts – staffed and unstaffed – to the moon.

“We are studying the programme of sending astronauts to the moon but it’s still in very early stages,” Wu said. “We haven’t got the approval yet.”

This month, on January 3, China’s Chang’e 4 became the first space vessel making a soft landing on the far side of the moon, and a returnable spacecraft called Chang’e 5 would be sent to the moon’s surface by the end of this year, said Wu.

Wu also explained that China would further explore the south pole region of the moon and construct a research station there.

Chang’e 5 will touch down on the near side of the moon – the hemisphere that permanently faces the Earth – and bring back samples of rock and soil.

China trailed others when it came to space missions, until Chang’e 4, humankind’s first spacecraft to land on the far side of the moon,” said Chief Scientist of the Chang’e 4 programme Wu Weiren. “It proves that China can do something that no other country has achieved in space exploration”.