After the successful mission to the moon’s dark side, China decided to send a rover to Mars next year and explore it together with NASA’s rover and lander, which are already learning more about the red planet.
According to CNN, before the opening of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which is a big event in Beijing, Wu Weiren, chief designer of China’s lunar exploration program, and one of the top scientists focused on space in the country, said that the next step for China’s space exploration is the red planet.
“Over the past 60 years, we’ve made a lot of achievements, but there is still a large distance from the world space powers. We must speed up our pace,” he told CNN. “Next year, we will launch a Mars probe, which will orbit around the Mars, land on it and probe it.”
But, that doesn’t mean that the space agency is giving up on Earth’s only natural satellite. In fact, China is planning to send another spacecraft to the moon. But, instead of exploring its far side, this probe will take samples of the moon and return it to Earth for research. That way, China will be the third country to complete a similar endeavor, after Russia and the U.S.
Although a little late, China has managed to quickly pick up the pace and reach the aforementioned countries in space exploration, and now it is planning to send a rover to Mars next year, but it’s still unclear what the rover would specifically look for on the Martian surface.
China has managed to send six crews into space since 2003, while also launching two labs into space. In 2013, its first rover Yutu 1 landed on the lunar surface, making it the third country to visit the lunar surface. At the end of last year, China launched Yutu 2, a robot which was expected to explore the far side of the moon. Yutu 2 also marks the first spacecraft to explore the far side of the moon.
Unfortunately, the spacecraft has had difficulties exploring the far side of the moon due to frigid conditions and oscillating temperatures. Whenever the lunar night comes, which lasts 14 days, the rover enters hibernation mode to protect itself and its components from the freezing temperatures, according to Wu.
“Due to the moon’s rotation and revolution, the night on the moon is 14 days long. This reduces the temperature on the moon to minus 190 degrees Celsius, a temperature that all components, parts, and electronic components cannot stand,” Wu told CNN. “So we let it sleep for a while, ensuring it can spend the night safely. A few days ago, it woke up automatically … and started to work. Currently, it is in normal condition.”
Yutu 2 also carried some live ingredients to the moon, with cotton seeds successfully sprouting. Unfortunately, the life inside Yutu’s container didn’t last for too long, as the spacecraft soon entered the hibernation mode which prevented the plants from receiving a sufficient amount of artificial light and heat to continue flourishing. Perhaps, China will attempt a similar experiment with its plans to send a rover to Mars next year.