China unveils Mars 2020 rover design
NASA's Mars 2020 rover is on track to meet its deadline and it won't be alone on the Red Planet. The Chinese State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND) has unveiled images of a probe and rover it plans to send to Mars at around the same time.
Following the success of its Jade Rabbit lunar rover, China has been discussing a Mars mission for a few years now, and at a press conference this week, revealed concept images of its Martian probe – consisting of an orbiter, lander and rover – along with new details on the program.
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The craft will launch in July or August 2020 from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center, hitching a ride on a Long March-5 carrier rocket. From there, it should take about seven months to reach Mars, meaning it should land around the same time as Curiosity's successor. After the lander and the orbiter part ways, the former will touch down just north of the Martian equator to unload the rover, while the orbiter continues to survey the Red Planet from above.
Weighing in at 200 kg (441 lb) and powered by four solar panels, the rover will use 13 instruments, including a ground-penetrating radar, to study the planet's soil, environment, atmosphere, and search for possible signs of water and ice over 92 days.
While the project is still unnamed for now, with a competition underway for the public to suggest names and help design a logo.