China to Soft Land First Probe on Dark Side of the Moon by 2018

China-based Jiuquan Space Launch Center

China unveiled an ambitious five-year space program that would land humanity’s first probe on the far side of the moon.

The Chinese government announced that it has an ambitious set of space exploration goals for the incoming five years. These goals include landing the first probe on the dark side of the moon by 2018 and deploying a Mars probe which should be operational by 2020.

If the Mars mission is successful, it would turn the East Asian country into the second nation to operate an unmanned rover on Mars, with the U.S. being the first. Beijing issued a space strategy for the next five years. Chinese authorities unveiled that the country is pursuing intermittently new ways to explore the universe and turn China into a space power.

Beijing issued a space strategy for the next five years. Chinese authorities unveiled that the country is pursuing “intermittently” new ways to explore the universe and turn China into a redoubtable space power.

China is also poised to send a manned craft to the Moon. According to the new document, China is bent on pursuing the ambitious plan for the sake of national prestige. China’s robotic probe to the moon would explore geology and geography of its mysterious far side. So far, no lander has been involved in a similar mission.

If its mission to Mars succeeds, China would be the second nation in the world to place a lander on the Red Planet. Europeans and the Russians repeatedly attempted to operate a robotic explorer to the planet but utterly failed. To date, only the U.S. has managed to operate a robotic lander for more than 14.5 seconds.

Chinese authorities said the Mars probe would be equipped with a ground penetrating radar and state-of-the-art camera. The radar would help scientists take a closer look at the planet’s soil, while the camera and other scientific instruments would enable them to study the atmosphere and environment.

Chinese researchers are especially interested in Mars’ physical features, inner structure, and water traces. The lander will reportedly weigh about 440 pounds. By contrast, NASA’s Curiosity rover weighs five times as much. The Chinese rover would be powered by solar panels just like Curiosity is.

The country’s ambitious space program is military-run because it seeks to raise its global status. The communist country managed to deploy its first manned mission in 2003. Since then, China landed a probe on the moon, built an experimental space station, and its astronauts performed a spacewalk.

In the meantime, China has strengthened cooperation with Europe and deployed a second space station three months ago. This summer, it tested a new rocket design which ferried an experimental probe that the Chinese later retrieved. The mission boosted the Chinese’s morale about a mission to Mars.

Until then, the Chinese had had to overcome some technical difficulties. In 2013, for example, its lunar lander encountered several mechanical issues which forced the space agency to abort the mission. Two years earlier, a first bid to place a satellite into the Red Planet’s orbit failed before exiting Earth’s atmosphere.

Meanwhile, the U.S. hasn’t sent a human crew into space without assistance from the Russians since 2011. In addition, the federal government forced NASA to postpone pending Mars missions until 2030.
Image Source: Wikimedia