China completes lander test for first Mars mission in 2020

HUAILAI: China on Thursday successfully completed a lander test in northern Hebei province ahead of an unmanned exploration mission to Mars next year.

China is on track to launch its Mars mission in 2020, Zhang Kejian, head of the China National Space Administration, said on Thursday. Zhang was speaking ahead of the hovering and obstacle avoidance test for the lander. The journey through space will take about seven months, while landing will take seven minutes, said Zhang Rongqiao, chief architect of the Mars exploration programme. The test was conducted at a sprawling landing test site in Huailai, northwest of Beijing. China has developed the powerful Long March 5 rocket to transport the probe to Mars in 2020.

The lander was suspended 70 meters above the ground on 36 huge steel cables, which rose up 140 meters into the air. The test started with a loud boom and the spacecraft hovered and then descended, coming to a stop a few feet short of the ground.

The same rocket is meant to deliver the Chang’e-5 probe to the moon by the end of 2019 or early next year to bring back samples of lunar rocks.

How to safety land on mars is one of the biggest challenges facing the mars mission, which officials said was on course to launch next year? If successful, china will be only the second country in the world to achieve the feat. NASA is also planning a mars mission next year

China invites diplomats and international media, including CNN, to witness the test.

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