China plans first Mars probe in 2009

Updated: 2007-05-22 20:03

SHANGHAI - China's first Mars probe will be launched in October 2009 as part of a joint mission with Russia, say sources with the Shanghai Space Administration, the main developer of the probe.

Researchers are pressing ahead with a joint launch with a Russian probe, said Chen Changya, a researcher at the Shanghai Institute of Satellite Engineering, at a space technology exhibition here.

Initiated by Shanghai Space Administration, the China-made probe will be developed by a number of organizations, including the Center of Space Science and Applied Research with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Shanghai Meteorological Observatory. Chen has been invited to work in the development of the probe to the Mars.

During Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Russia in late March, the two governments signed an agreement to launch joint exploration of Mars and Phobos, the innermost and biggest of the red planet's moons.

Under the agreement, a Russian rocket will lift a Chinese probe, actually a satellite, and a Russian exploration vehicle -- known as Phobos-Grunt -- to survey Mars and Phobos.

The small Chinese satellite will explore Mars while the Russian craft will land on Phobos to explore the environment and take soil samples.

The two vehicles will reach the orbit of Mars in 2010 more than 10 months after their launch.

"We hope to explore the spatial environment there, secrets behind disappearance of water, and the features of evolution," said Chen.

The China-made probe -- 75 centimeters long, 75 centimeters wide, 60 centimeters high and weighing 110 kilograms -- was designed for a two-year mission, said Chen.

China still needed to achieve breakthroughs in three key technologies of remote observation and control, automatic control and heat control, said Chen.

A design for the Chinese probe would have been finished by April next year, but the probe would be finished by June 2009.

In 2003, China became the third country to put a man in space after the United States and the Soviet Union. It launched a second manned space flight last year and plans to eventually land a person on the moon.

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