China is preparing its own Mars probe – Yinghuo-1 – that will hitch-hike a ride to the Red Planet with the Russian Phobus-Grunt probe.
The development of the probe started at the Shangai Academy of Spaceflight in late 2006, and a prototype will be ready by April 2008. The Mars probe will be ready vehicle integration four months before being launched by a Soyuz-2 launch vehicle in October 2009.
Once launched, the Yinghuo-1 probe will arrive at Mars, following a journey of nearly a year, in October 2010. The development of the Chinese probe will also gain cooperation with Russia, with whom the Chinese are building ever-closer ties with.
Weighing in at 110 kg, Yinghuo-1 will have a cubic structure 0.75 meters long, 0.75 meters wide and 0.60 meters high, equipped with two solar panels. The probe will weigh 110 kg in total.
The announcement of the mission to Mars comes at the same time that a model of the Chinese Mars probe was displayed at a space exhibition at the Minhang District Museum.
‘The project will lift our overall capacity of deep space exploration and the space industry generally,’ Chen Changya, a researcher who is involved with the project, was quoted by the Shanghai Daily during the exhibition.
Yinghuo-1 will take several instruments for observing the Martian surface, to analyse the magnetic levels of the planet and to try to explain the reason for the absence of water in Mars.
Once in the vicinity of Mars, the two probes will separate and the Chinese probe will orbit the red planet independently on the Russian probe.
This announcement comes just a few days after news about the launch of the first Chinese moon probe, Chang’e-1 next September, which is an integral element of China’s five year plan.
The moon probe will be China’s first mission beyond Earth orbit, heading for a mission that will carry out studies of the lunar surface, in what will be the opening salvo of China’s three-phase moon exploration effort.
‘The moon probe project is the third milestone in China’s space technology after satellite and manned spacecraft projects, and a first step for us in exploring deep space,’ said Sun Laiyan, chief of the China National Space Administration, to China’s Xinhua news agency.
‘As late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping pointed out, if China had no atomic bombs or hydrogen bombs and had not launched its first satellite since the 1960s, China could not be called an influential country and would not enjoy the same international status.
‘Space technology reflects a nation’s overall power and is an important facet of the modernization of national defense.’