Skip to main content

This is the 1st Photo of China's Mars Explorer Launching in 2020

See more

The first picture of China's new Mars explorer (opens in new tab) has been unveiled,setting the stage for an ambitious mission the country will launch to the Red Planet next year.

"The mission is going smoothly," the state-run China Global Television Network (CGTV) quoted Ye Jianpei (opens in new tab), chief scientist of Space Science and Deep-space Exploration with the Chinese Space Technology Academy, as saying. "If no surprise, the Mars explorer is going to be launched in 2020, and land before 2021.”

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.

Related: China On the Moon! A History of Chinese Lunar Missions in Pictures (opens in new tab)

An artist's concept of China's planned Mars lander and rover on the surface of the Red Planet. The mission launches in 2020. (Image credit: Xinhua/Alamy)

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.

To reach Mars, the spacecraft will be sent into geosynchronous orbit via the heavy-lift Long March 5 rocket – a booster that is up for another flight to certify it is ready to carry payloads to the moon and Mars.

Following that phase, the Mars probe will have a seven-month flight to the Red Planet. 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 rover mission (now facing parachute test issues); NASA's Mars 2020 mega-rover; as well as the UAE's Hope Mars orbiter.

Leonard David is author of the recently released book, "Moon Rush: The New Space Race (opens in new tab)" published by National Geographic in May 2019. A longtime writer for Space.com, David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

Leonard David
Space Insider Columnist

Leonard David is an award-winning space journalist who has been reporting on space activities for more than 50 years. Currently writing as Space.com's Space Insider Columnist among his other projects, Leonard has authored numerous books on space exploration, Mars missions and more, with his latest being "Moon Rush: The New Space Race" published in 2019 by National Geographic. He also wrote "Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet" released in 2016 by National Geographic. Leonard  has served as a correspondent for SpaceNews, Scientific American and Aerospace America for the AIAA. He was received many awards, including the first Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History in 2015 at the AAS Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium. You can find out Leonard's latest project at his website and on Twitter.