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China is going to Mars with a new rover next year

Published Mar 4th, 2019 2:23PM EST

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China got a very, very late start in its efforts to explore space. The U.S., Russia, and other countries forged new paths to the Moon and beyond before China even got started, but it’s making up for lost time in a big way. Following successful Moon missions, including landing on the far side of the rock for the first time ever, China is now looking to the Red Planet for its next big space mission.

As CNN reports, China’s space division is planning a rover mission to Mars that could launch as early as next year. Wu Weiren of China’s lunar exploration program talked about the plans at an event held in Beijing.

“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,” Wu said during a speech. “Next year, we will launch a Mars probe, which will orbit around the Mars, land on it and probe it.”

China has had its eye on Mars for some time, and is even working on simulating Martian settlements which could one day serve as a model for actual human colonies on the Red Planet.

Details of China’s 2020 Mars line up pretty well with previous missions carried out by other countries. The orbiter will be equipped with high-resolution cameras and various instruments like radar, while the rover will carry a number of cameras as well as a magnetic field detector and instruments to test samples of the surface.

China plans to launch its hardware into space sometime around July of next year, with the spacecraft arriving at Mars in early 2021 before eventually landing on the surface a few months later.