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China making strides towards Mars mission

BEIJING: China has been moving steadily toward its goal of fulfilling the country’s first Mars mission in the coming two years, with Chinese scientists looking to send its astronauts to the red planet.
Last week, the nation’s space authority carried out a key experiment for the coming Mars mission in Hebei province’s Huailai area, in front of dozens of foreign diplomats and journalists.
The experiment, which aimed at verifying the design and capability of the lander of China’s robotic Mars probe, was the first of its kind in the country, according to Zhang Kejian, the director of the China National Space Administration. Zhang oversaw the test. The move also marks the first time that China opened its Mars mission to foreign visitors, Zhang said, adding that it was a practical step in the nation’s exchange and cooperation with the international space community.
During the experiment, a test version of China’s Mars probe lander, which was tied to a 140-meter metal tower, conducted hovering, descent and obstacle-evading operations in a simulated Martian gravitational environment at Asia’s largest testing site for landing on extraterrestrial bodies. The site is run by the Beijing Institute of Space Mechanics and Electricity.
Present during the experiment were ambassadors and other diplomats from 19 nations including France, Italy and Brazil; representatives from the delegations to China of the European Union and African Union, as well as the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization; and a number of domestic and foreign reporters.
“Through this event, you will be able to better understand our Mars mission and other deep-space exploration programs and we can discuss the feasibility of further cooperation,” Zhang said before the experiment. “We welcome space authorities, research organizations and enthusiasts from around the world wishing to take part in our space endeavors.”
Zhang Rongqiao, chief designer of China’s first Mars mission, said at the test site that the seven-minute landing process will be one of the most difficult and challenging parts in the nation’s Mars mission. Therefore, engineers built the facility to simulate the red planet’s gravitational condition and the Martian surface. Ye Peijian, a leading scientist in deep-space exploration at the China Academy of Space Technology, said last month that China’s Mars exploration program is proceeding well and will be the country’s first planetary expedition.
He said the mission will be launched next year and will land an unmanned probe on the Martian surface before July 2021.

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