China unveils design for unmanned mission to Mars

China has given the first detailed look at the technology of its Mars mission, which it hopes to launch in 2020.

Renderings depicting the orbiter, lander and rover were released to the public on Tuesday, four months after the mission was announced, according to China National Radio.

The goal is to study the planet’s features, including its soil, environment, atmosphere and interaction of any water and ice the probe found, Zhang Rongqiao, the chief designer, was quoted as saying at a press conference.

China has made rapid strides in the recent decade towards becoming a superpower in space exploration. In late 2013, it put the Chang’e 3 lander on the moon and deployed the Jade Rabbit rover, but its three-month mission was quickly cut short when the vehicle suffered mechanical trouble.

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Zhang acknowledged the Mars mission posed “greater difficulties and sophistication”.

One challenge is obtaining enough solar power for the rover given the planet’s atmosphere contains gases that can attenuate the sun’s rays.

Scientists would also have to solve the technical challenges of atmospheric entry and landing, as well as long-distance communication, Zhang said. The launch is scheduled for 2020 and the craft is expected to reach the planet by 2021, according to the national radio’s website.

In 2011, China put a Mars probe aboard a Russian spacecraft, but a malfunction stranded the mission’s two probes in the earth’s orbit, and they disintegrated upon re-entry.

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