- China recently landed the first spacecraft on the far side of the moon and plans to launch a lunar sample-return mission at the end of the year.
- The China National Space Administration is also working on a robotic Mars mission that is scheduled to launch in mid-2020 and arrive in early 2021.
- If successful, that mission could enable future Mars missions to bring pristine samples of the red planet’s soil and rocks back to Earth by 2030.
At the end of 2019, the China National Space Administration intends to launch a follow-up Chang’e 5 mission to scoop up the nation’s first samples of lunar soil and return them to Earth. It’s also planning follow-up moon missions to retrieve more samples, scout for water, and examine possible locations for a lunar base for humans, according to Chinese state media.
But the country is already looking past the moon, toward Mars.
“China’s first Mars exploration mission will be implemented around 2020,” Wu Yanhua, the agency’s deputy director, said during a briefing on Monday.
That interplanetary mission is called the Mars Global Remote Sensing Orbiter and Small Rover, or HX-1.
A January 2018 roadmap assembled by NASA and other members of the International Space Exploration Coordination Group describes the HX-1 mission as an “orbit, landing, and roving mission,” which would probe Mars’ “topographical and geological features, physical fields and internal structure, atmosphere, ionosphere, climate and environment.”