China Unveils Spacecraft Design for 2020 Mission to Mars

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China’s space agency released its first renderings of three technological components of its unmanned 2020 Mars mission, according to China National Radio. The images include depictions of the orbiter, lander, and rover that will blast off to the red planet in less than four years.

According to the South China Morning Post, chief designer Zhang Rongqiao said the mission’s purpose was to study Mars’s soil, environment, and atmosphere, plus, of course, any water or ice that might be found.

In the United States, the dialogue around the Mars missions is currently dominated by SpaceX and NASA, but China has its own ambitious private-spaceflight agenda. While Russia continues to scale back its space exploration, China has been ramping up for the last several years now. The country has also pledged to massively increase its science research and development spending by 2020 — the same year it’s set to begin its missions to Mars. Last week, China launched its first quantum communications satellite into orbit, an achievement that cost five years and several billion dollars.

One problem China’s Mars mission technology still faces is the issue of making its solar power viable despite heavy atmospheric contamination (gases that block the sunlight from being absorbed efficiently). Zhang spoke to the current design’s shortcomings, but the fact that China has reached this point in its journey to Mars shows the nation definitely isn’t slowing down.

Artist's rendering.

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