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China plans to put rover on Mars by 2020: Scientist

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BEIJING (PTI): A leading Chinese space scientist has said that the country could land a rover on Mars by 2020, build a manned space station by 2022 and test a heavy carrier rocket by 2030, as Beijing expands its space programme in a race with India to explore the Red Planet.

A feasibility study on China's first Mars mission is completed and the goal is now to send an orbiter and rover to Mars, Lei Fanpei, chairman of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, told state-run Xinhua news agency on Sunday.

There has been no official announcement about a Mars probe yet, but Lei expects a Long March-5 carrier, still at the development stage, to take the orbiter into a Martian orbit by 2020 from a new launch site on south China's Hainan province.

The communist giant made an unsuccessful attempt to reach Mars in 2011 aboard a Russian rocket, but failed to complete the mission because of an accident during orbital transfer, Xinhua report said.

China unveiled its Mars rover, being developed to scurry the floor of the Red Planet for signs of water and life, at an air show last month.

It plans to test the new machine in the rugged terrain of Tibet as India's Mars Orbiter Mission Mangalyaan is orbiting Mars since 24 September, 2014 after being launched on 5 November, 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation.

US' new Orion space capsule, which was tested successfully on Friday
(Dec. 5), plans to carry astronauts beyond Earth's orbit, perhaps to Mars and return.

China plans to deploy a robot similar to the one it sent to Moon and reportedly plans to test in Tibet.

Lei said China's manned space station programme is progressing steadily. Various modules, vehicles and ground facilities are nearing readiness.

The lab hopes to replace Mir, the Russian space station which was expected to retire by that time.

Development and manufacture of major space products are at key stages, including the second space lab Tiangong-2, the Tianzhou-1 cargo ship, Long March-7 rockets and Shenzhou-11 spacecraft.

The core module and two space labs will be tested soon, Lei said.

A new launch centre in Hainan, the fourth after Taiyuan, Jiuquan and Xichang, is almost complete and can already launch some spacecrafts.

By around 2022, China's first orbiting space station could be completed. It will consist of three parts - a core module attached to two labs, each weighing about 20 tonnes, Xinhua report said.

China is also developing a powerful rocket to back up its future space missions.

"We hope to make breakthroughs within four or five years on design and key technology for the heavy carrier, a solid foundation for developing such a rocket. We hope to finish all these within the next 15 years, so the heavy rocket will make its first maiden flight sometime around 2030," Lei said.

The rocket is envisaged as having a payload capacity of 130 tonnes to low Earth orbit.

Tags:

China  Mars  Rover  Spacecraft  Space Station  Moon  India  MoM  
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