The successful return of the first examples of Moon rock to Earth in 45 years is not enough for the Chinese space agency, whose sights are located on Mars.
The Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) has previously announced plans to launch a return-sample mission to the Martian surface by 2030 and following the success of the Chang’e-5 Moon mission, officials confirmed that Mars is next.
Speaking at a press conference after Moon’s rocks recovered, CNSA deputy director Wu Yanhau said Mars’ mission would be ‘delivered as expected’.
No specific date or details of the mission have been confirmed, but when it was first reported in 2012 it was said to involve remote sensing, landing and return.
Reports suggest that the first samples from Mars will be returned to Earth by 2031, which is the same year that samples from the NASA / ESA mission are expected to be returned.
Several sample return missions are planned for Mars in the next decade involving China, Japan and NASA and European missions combined
China confirms hot Mars mission return-sample from success with mission to retrieve rock samples from Moon
China has delivered a series of successful missions to the Moon, introducing the first rover on the other side and bringing the first samples back in more than 45 years.
Taking samples of rock and dust back from Mars would be a major step up in China’s increasingly ambitious mission to be seen as a major global space power.
China currently has a spacecraft, Tianwen-1, en route to Mars, which is expected to reach orbit in early February and launch a rover two or three months later.
Wu said future missions will include asteroids exploration, engineering missions including a new Chinese space station, as well as planetary missions.
Two spacecraft are currently on the way to launch a rover on Mars (pictured) from NASA and China – the Chinese rover will be used as a test bed for a future sample return mission
These included a trip back to Mars and even a study of the Jupiter system – including the gas giant and its many moons.
The latest details released about China’s Mars return sampling mission came out in 2017 where it was said that it would see the collected samples ascending from Mars, rendezvous in Mars orbit and fly back to Earth.
This is very similar to Chang’e-5’s mission to return rock samples from the lunar surface – returning to Earth last night.
Chang’e-5 was detonated from a starting point in China’s southern island district of Hainan on November 23 and returned to Earth on December 16.
The lander vehicle hovering down on the surface of the moon was one of several spacecraft manned by the Chang’e-5 probe.
There was also an ascender vehicle, which would collect ground and rock samples before taking off from the lunar surface and docking with a orbital module.
The orbiting model then moved the samples to return a capsule for the return trip to Earth – a similar system is expected to be used on future Mars missions.
It is thought that such a mission would require the High March 9 rocket high-altitude and will use methods currently being tested on the Tianwen-1 mission.
That mission sees a rover sent to the surface of the Red Planet find signs of alien life and does so at the same time as NASA’s Stability rover.
Chinese probe Chang’e-5 crashed down in the Siziwang region at 1:30 local time Thursday, bringing the first samples of lunar soil to Earth in more than 45 years. The photo shows a scene captured by the survey helicopter
If Tianwen-1 succeeds, China will be the second country to land on an operational rover on the surface of Mars.
Another suggested method for the China Mars sample return mission is to see the samples retrieved by a sample collector with a Mars climbing vehicle launched in November 2028 and collected in the Mars Orbit to return to Earth by 2031.
NASA’s Perseverance rover, now on its way to Mars, will collect samples of rock and dust and deposit them in capsules on the Martian surface.
If the joint sample return mission with ESA goes ahead, these capsules will be collected by a rover built by ESA before the end of this decade and returned to Earth.
Japan is also heading to Mars – although JAXA plans to collect samples from one of Mars’ moors – possibly Phobos – and return the samples to Earth.
Chang’e-5 was a rapid turnaround mission, launching on November 24 and returning samples to Earth three weeks later on December 16 or 17
They build on the experience gained during the Hayabusa2 mission that returned samples of the Ryugu asteroid back to Earth earlier this month.
It is anticipated that, as Phobos is moving so close to Mars, there may be samples of material from the Red Planet itself – leaving in August 2025 and returning in 2028.
If the JAXA mission is successful then, despite being samples from a moon of Mars, this may be the first to bring samples of Martian soil back to Earth.
JAXA is also said to be interested in collaborating on a larger-scale global sample return mission to the Red Planet.
CHINA CREATES PLANS TO INCLUDE WITH MARS AND MOON MISSIONS
Officials from the Chinese space agency are working to become a superpower in space with the US and Russia.
They have already sent out the first lawyer to investigate the other side of the Moon – sharing photos from the part of our nearest neighbor that we rarely see as part of Chang’e’s mission -4.
In November 2020 they sent the Chang’e-5 space probe to the Moon to collect and return the first specimens of lunar soil in 45 years.
This was done in collaboration with the European Space Agency which provided tracking information for the Chinese spacecraft.
Chang’e-6 is the first mission to explore the south pole of the moon and is expected to launch in 2023 or 2024.
Chang’e-7 explores the earth’s surface, composition, space environment in an overall mission, according to the Chinese space authority, while Chang’e-8 focuses on technical surface analysis.
It is reported that China is also working on building a lunar base using 3D printing technology and launching a future crew mission to the surface.
Mission number eight is likely to be the basis for this as it seeks to validate the technology identified for the project.
The CNSA is also building a space station on Earth where Chinese astronauts will conduct scientific experiments, similar to the ISS crew.
The group also launched a mission to Mars in the summer of 2020 where they will be seen landing on a rover on the surface of the red planet in February 2021.
China is also said to be working on a project to build a solar power generator in space, which would bring energy back to Earth and become the largest man-made object in orbit.
They also have several advanced space science projects including satellites to hunt for gravitational waves and Earth-observing spacecraft to monitor climate change.