China unveils probe and rover for 2020 Mars mission

China on Wednesday released images of the Mars probe and rover that the country plans to use in its ambitious mission to the Red Planet in 2020.

The spacecraft will attempt to orbit Mars for about seven months then make a landing in the northern hemisphere, where a rover will be deployed, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing mission leaders.

"The challenges we face are unprecedented," said Zhang Rongqiao, chief architect of the mission. 

Computer-generated images posted on the Chinese State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence website showed a six-wheeled rover powered by four large solar panels. 

The spacecraft, which weighs about 200 kilogrammes, is designed to operate for three Martian months, according to Sun Zezhou, the probe's chief designer.

A Martian month is approximately 57 days.

It will use a remote sensing camera and ground penetrating radar to study the soil, environment and atmosphere of Mars, as well as distribution of water, ice and physical fields, Sun said. 

China's space exploration programme has been making rapid progress in the past few years, including landing the Jade Rabbit rover on the moon in 2013.

China aims to carry out a manned moon landing by 2024, as well as launch the core module of a space station in 2018 with a goal of completing the station by 2022. 

The entire space programme is closely supervised by the ruling Communist Party and the People's Liberation Army, both of which are led by President Xi Jinping.

The successes of the programme are significant for China's one-party rulers to garner support from the population and to boost international prestige, experts told dpa. 

Last update: Wed, 24/08/2016 - 12:32

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