Credit: China Aerospace Technology Corporation

The first picture of China’s Mars explorer has been unveiled, a spacecraft set to be lobbed toward Mars next year.

In a China Global Television Network (CGTV) story, Ye Jianpei, chief scientist of Space Science and Deep-space Exploration with the Chinese Space Technology Academy, said: “The mission is going smoothly. If no surprise, the Mars explorer is going to be launched in 2020, and land before 2021.”

Credit: CCTV America/Screengrab Inside Outer Space

The image of an encapsulated spacecraft within its cocoon-like aeroshell was issued by the China Aerospace Technology Corporation. Earlier stories by Chinese space officials said the mission includes an orbiter, lander, and a rover.

Credit: CCTV America

Triple tasks, one mission

The mission is designed to examine the Red Planet’s atmosphere, landscape, geological and magnetic characteristics, which could provide clues to the origin and evolution of Mars and the solar system, Ye said.

“Mars exploration is very innovative. If it proves to be a success, it will be the world’s first time a country completes the three tasks in one mission,” Ye added.

Credit: CGTN Infographic



To reach Mars, the spacecraft will be sent into geosynchronous orbit via the heavy-lift Long March 5 liquid carrier rocket – a booster that is up for reflight to certify it is ready to carry Moon/Mars payloads.

Following that phase, the Mars probe will have a seven-month flight to the Red Planet.

Credit: CGTV Infographic

In an August 2016 video, China’s upcoming Mars mission was said to feature an orbiter, lander and a rover.

Multiple Mars launches

China’s Mars explorer will have company.

The favorable Mars opposition launch window in 2020 is the target for the European Space Agency’s ExoMars lander mission (now facing parachute test issues); NASA’s Mars 2020 mega-rover; as well as the UAE’s Hope Mars orbiter.

Go to this video for a preview of China’s mission to Mars:

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