China unveiled a spacecraft Thursday that it hopes to send to Mars next year. The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation demonstrated how the landing vehicle can hover, avoid obstacles, and decelerate.
“After the probe is launched, it will take about seven months to reach Mars, and the final procedure of landing will only last about seven minutes, which is the most difficult and the most risky part of the whole mission,” said the Mars mission’s chief designer, Zhang Rongqiao.
The country is coming from behind in the space race, having conducted its first manned mission in 2003. This year, it landed a rover on the far side of the moon. It has sought international cooperation with space agencies from Europe and elsewhere. Only the United States has had success with missions on Mars so far, and it declined to work with China because of national security concerns. China is not allowed on the International Space Station, but it says it is working on building its own. —Lynde Langdon