China Unveils Mars Probe Design

| Aug 24, 2016 10:56 PM EDT

The China National Space Administration unveiled the final design of its Mars probe on Tuesday.

China on Tuesday unveiled the design of its Mars probe, hours after announcing that one of its unmanned submersibles has reached a depth of more than 10,000 meters under the sea.

The probe consists of three parts--the orbiter, the lander, and the rover--and features six wheels and four solar panels, according to design illustrations released by the China National Space Administration.

Liu Jizhong, deputy head of the China's Mars exploration program, said the unmanned probe is reaching its final design stages and scheduled to land on Mars around 2020.

"We have begun to produce the probe's subsystems. The mission will be accomplished in 2020 without delay," he said at the announcement ceremony for the probe.

Liu noted that the favorable launch time for a Mars mission appears every 26 months, and that there are three such opportunities by the end of 2020.

Zhang Rongqiao, the chief planner of the program, said the farthest distance between the Earth and Mars is approximately 400 million km, so it will take nearly seven months for the probe to reach the Martian atmosphere.

The orbiter will then release the lander and the rover to survey the planet in orbit. The lander will then soft-land on the Martian surface and deploy the rover, Zhang said.

The 200kg rover, which carries 13 scientific instruments, will work for 92 days on the planet, Sun Zezhou, chief designer of the probe told China Daily.

Sun said China is also planning to send another probe to Mars by 2030 to collect samples and return to Earth.

The probe's announcement came shortly after one of the country's remote-controlled submersibles dived to a record-breaking depth of 10,767 meters, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences on Tuesday.

The Haidou submersible set the national record at the Marianas Trench in the West Pacific, the deepest point in the world, during a scientific expedition in June. The submersible dived more than 8,000 meters below the sea surface once, 9,000 meters twice, and 10,000 meters twice.

The successful dive has made China the third country next to Japan and the United States to have built submersibles capable of reaching depths of more than 10,000 meters, the academy said.

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