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China’s 2020 Mars Probe Needs A Name

Aug 26, 2016 05:22 AM EDT
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China officially joins the race to the Red Planet with the recent unveiling of its Mars probe and rover, which will be launched in 2020.

The Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) unveiled images of its first Martian probe on Aug. 23, and officially started the global naming and logo contest for the probe and the rover.

"The challenges we face are unprecedented," Ye Peijian, a leading aerospace expert in China and consultant for the program, said in a report by NDTV.

The Mars mission will be launched in 2020, a time when Earth and Mars are closest to each other in 26 months. It will be propelled on a Long March-5 carrier rocket, which is the main carrier for China's future space missions. It plans to take off from the Wenchang Launch Center in the Hainan province in southern China, and reach the Red Planet within seven months.

The Martian probe is composed of three parts: an orbiter, which will relay communications between Earth and Mars, and survey the two Martian moons; a lander, which will deploy airbag cushions and parachutes for a safe landing on Mars; and a rover equipped with spectrometers and other instruments, which will examine the Martian surface and make new discoveries about weather and geology.

Chief designer Zhang Rongquiao said in a report in PopSci that because of the 40-minute delay in Mars-to-Earth transmissions, the rover will be operating autonomously during observations on the Red Planet's geology, weather, ice distribution and magnetic field. Zhang said that it would also be challenging to secure enough battery capacity to sustain shortages in solar energy collection due to Mars' climate and atmosphere.

In 2011, China's attempt to send a probe in a Russian spacecraft failed shortly after launch when it was declared lost. China is also the third country to successfully land a rover on the Moon, and would then become the fifth country to orbit Mars, following the U.S., Russia, Europe and India.

Just recently, China has completed the construction of the world's largest radio telescope, as well as launched one of its most powerful space rockets, the Long March-7, which will power future space missions.

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