From moon to Mars. After chalking out a detailed roadmap of its future lunar missions, China is now working out details of an unmanned scientific flight to Mars. It may be recalled that China launched its second mission to the moon, Chang'e-2 on October 1.
Now it is exploring the possibility of launchng an independent Mars orbiter for which it has drawn up technical plans.
A report in the Straits Times on October 24, quoting the China Academy of Space Technology, says that the mission could lift off in 2013---the same year when India launches its second mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-2. Infact in the same year China also plans to send its third lunar mission, Chang'e-3. So, if plans go on sked, then 2013 promises to be an exciting year for space exploration.
The paper says that the current flight plan enviages the Chinese Mars-bound spacecraft being first sent to the earth-Mars orbit. and then fly for about 10 months before entering the elliptical orbit around Mars. The mission which will conduct scientific experiments is expected to last a year or two. The spacecraft will weigh 1040 kg and the payload 110 kg.
The project is awaiting the green signal from Beijing, but Yang Baohua, president of the China Academy of Space Technology, has been quoted as saying that ``a mission to Mars is no doubt the future trend and mission for China.''
The chief designer of Chang'e-1--China's first lunar mission--Ye Peijan, has acknowledged that the technical plan does not represent the world's most advanced technologies in deep space exploration. ``But, it will be the most reliable plan which can help to achieve the goal in the shortest time,'' he has been quoted as saying.
China's independent mission to Mars will be preceded by a joint flight to the Red Planet with Russia in December 2011.
On March 26,2007, China and Russia signed an agreement which stipulates a Chinese payload called Yinghuo-1 piggy backing on a Russian mission to Mars called Phobos-Grunt. Its main role is to study the Martian environment
Yinghuo-1, weighing 110 kg, will carry two cameras which will image Mars and Phobos for a year.
Now with Russia and China aiming for Mars, can India be far behind?
I do not think so.