Qi Faren, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and chief designer of Shenzhou spaceships, indicated on Jan. 16 that China is expected to launch the first Mars probe in 2013.
The probe, Yinghuo-1(YH-1), was due to blast off in October 2009 with Russia’s “Phobos Explorer” from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, but the launch was postponed.
Qi Faren disclosed that China and Russia will launch the first Mars probe this year. By 2013, there will be a minimum distance between the Mars and the Earth, which will be a good time to launch the Mars probe. If this opportunity is missed, China will have to wait several years to launch another. Therefore, China will consider launching its first Mars probe independently.
Qi said that this is only a consideration of the aerospace industry and not the Chinese government’s formal decision-making at present. However, China’s space industry is fully capable of successfully launching the Mars probe.
China’s space industry plans important developments in the coming years, which will culminate in the construction of a space station by 2020, Qi said.
He explained that China will build the space station to solve four stages of difficult problems in research and development. China successfully and independently put a man into space in the first stage.
In the second stage, China will launch Tiangong-1, an unmanned space module, in the first half of 2011 and the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft in the second half of the year to carry out the nation’s first-ever space docking.
Tiangong, or the heavenly palace, would finally be transformed into a manned space lab after experimental dockings with three Shenzhou spacecraft, which are expected to be put into space within two years following the module’s launch.
In the third stages, China will launch the cargo spacecraft docked to the space station.
The fourth stage will launch the recycling system for air and water resources. Qi explained that the space station cannot always rely on spacecraft to transport materials, so it will be necessary to research and develop a recycling system in the future.
A renewable system means fully utilizing the astronauts’ sweat, urine and other wastes for reuse in the space station. The space station will include a core module, two laboratory modules and a number of cargo spacecraft and manned spacecraft by 2020, Qi said.
For China’s lunar exploration program, Qi indicated that currently the lunar exploration program will be divided into three steps. The first step is to fly around the moon, which has been completed.
The second step is to send the lunar rover to the moon surface to conduct a certain range of activities and ship back all the information to the Earth. The third step is to extract samples from the moon, which can be carried back to the Earth to explore the presence of water resources.
By Zhang Qian, People’s Daily Online