China plans to land a probe on Mars in 2021 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of founding of the ruling-Communist Party of China and a decade after its first failed mission in 2011, after which India, US, Russia and EU stole the march.
"China is likely to launch a Mars probe in 2020. After months of flying, the probe is expected to land in Mars at the 100th anniversary of the CPC. If successful, it will be a present from people working in the aerospace field," Ye Peijian, a top official of China's space programme, said.
"The probe is expected to reach Mars in 2021 after a flight of seven to ten months," Ye was quoted as saying by the official media Beijing.
The Communist Party, the sole governing party of China, was founded in 1921.
Ye said China has accumulated enough experience from its moon project.
"Our team accomplished the moon exploration project in 2013 as part of the Chang'e-3 mission," he said.
In November 2015, China unveiled a model of its orbiter and landing rover at the China International Industry Fair in Shanghai.
"Up till now we have made a breakthrough on the communication issue with a distance of 400 million kms. The main difficulty would be landing on Mars," Ye said.
China's earlier mission to send a probe to the Red Planet in a joint mission with Russia failed in 2011.
So far, only the US, the former Soviet Union, the European Space Agency and India have successfully carried out Mars exploration missions.
China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, the main contractor of China's space missions, said yesterday that the Mars exploration is among the 10 major orders that Long March 5, the country's next-generation heavy lift rocket, has received so far.
Other orders include the Chang'e-5 lunar probe mission that is expected to bring back soil from the moon around 2017, and the much-anticipated space station's core module that will be launched around 2020.
The launch vehicle is slated to make a maiden flight later this year.
The size and structure of the Mars probe will be similar to Chang'e-3, China's first lunar lander that was launched in 2013, though there are many differences, Ye said.
"There are many challenges in front of us. But, I think it is likely we will send the probe to Mars given our all-out efforts, the know-how we gained from past missions and everybody's support," he said. PTI