China’s National Space Administration just released a fascinating outline, “China’s Space Activities in 2016”, detailing its intentions to dominate the space race, create new technologies and outpace competitors like SpaceX and NASA in the race to explore Mars and deep space.
Image Credit: AP Photo/Andy Wong
Coming in at 11,000 words, the report is a bulleted rundown of both the country’s ambitious space exploration plan and a dozen or so scientific goals while in space — getting to Mars is only the fourth “major task” they have set for themselves. The report was released in conjunction with remarks in Beijing from Wu Yanha, vice head of the CNSA.
First up: The moon. The CNSA announced a series of robotic lunar missions over the next 10 years. First, to receive lunar samples in 2017, then a return trip the following year to land on the unexplored far side of the moon. In addition, Yanha has said the CNSA will “also carry out robotic exploration of the south and north poles of the moon twice in the next five and ten years”.
As part of its deep space exploration section, the report says China plans to launch its first probe to the Red Planet in 2020, including an orbiter, a lander and a rover. Later, China intends to return to Mars to collect surface samples. It also hopes to explore the asteroid belt and the Jupiter system, and, of course, “search for extraterrestrial life”. Nice.
Additional goals detailed in the report include building a “non-toxic and pollution-free” launch vehicles for carrying payloads into outer space, detecting anti-matter and studying global climate change and natural disasters. It’s unclear how much of this ambitious plan China will wind up carrying out, but it appears the race to explore the solar system is heating up fast.