First Public Test of China's Mars Lander Successful as Officials Eye 2020 Mission to Narrow the Space Race
Yesterday morning in the Hebei mountains, far removed from the tumult in Hong Kong, a tiny Martian lander plummeted 230 feet, stopping itself a few feet short of impact and then slowly touching down. The first public test of China's Mars lander was a success, according to reports from CNN.
China expects to launch its first unmanned mission to Mars next year. Their intention is to close the gap between the world powers that are expanding into space, joining the United States and Russia. Wu Weiren with the lunar exploration program in China said, "Over the past 60 years, we've made a lot of achievements, but there is still a large distance from the world space powers. We must speed up our pace."
That morning, scientists were testing how well the lander could navigate obstacles to landing. They chose their remote location in the mountains because it was similar to Martian terrain.
It is imperative for scientists to ensure that the Long March 5 rocket is operational by that time, which is designed to carry 25-ton payloads. Construction has hobbled along since the project was announced in 2001, but funding was inconsistent and they struggled to develop the new technologies that would be necessary. A failed rocket launch test in 2017 caused further delays. According to CNN, it's possible that they'll test the rocket again by the end of this year.
In early January 2019, China's Chang'e-4 lander became the first craft to land on the "dark" side of the Moon. A second lander is expected to join it in 2020, followed by a space station in 2022. China's ultimate goal is to put an astronaut on the Moon by the 2030s.
Watch the Mars lander test here: