China’s space race gathers pace: Next stop, Jupiter?

Holly Chik, South China Morning Post

Posted at Jun 15 2021 01:29 PM

China’s space race gathers pace: Next stop, Jupiter? 1
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured a bright, white, stretched out storm in the biggest planet in the solar system on August 25, 2020, traveling at 560 kph at the mid-northern latitude. Photo courtesy of NASA

China’s space exploration ambitions are picking up speed with a mission to reach Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, in 2029, according to the China National Space Administration.

The CNSA also said that over the next few years the country would explore a comet and collect more moon samples as well as gather samples from Mars and an asteroid.

“In 2029, we will carry out a mission for Jupiter exploration,” Xu Hongliang, secretary general of the space agency, said on Saturday.

He said upcoming exploratory missions had been confirmed by the Chinese government and were undergoing approval procedures. China would largely focus on Mars exploration before 2030 “after taking into account the needs of developing engineering technology and addressing scientific interests”, Xu added. 

For years, China has had missions to the moon. The country is also in the process of building its own space station to rival the International Space Station, and in May successfully landed its first rover, Zhu Rong, on Mars.

Xu said the next step on the red planet was to carry out a sampling and return mission in 2028.

The agency revealed China’s plans for the next few years as the country races to catch up with the United States in space technology, with Zhu Rong reaching Mars a major milestone.

China became only the third country after the US and the former Soviet Union to accomplish the feat. 

In 2020 a Chinese probe brought back the first lunar sample in more than 40 years, also only the third country to do so after the US and Soviet Union.

Xu said China would push forward the development of heavy-lift launch vehicles, reusable space transport systems and satellite internet.

He said Chinese space officials had been working with their counterparts around the world – including Nasa, the European Space Agency (ESA) and national agencies in Argentina, France and Austria – to monitor and share Mars information. 

Over the next five years China plans to launch two probes to further survey the moon’s environment and collect samples. The nation has conducted five moon missions since 2007, making its first soft landing in 2013. The country made the first landing on the far side of the moon in 2019. 

Beijing and Moscow agreed in March this year to jointly build and lead an international lunar research station project for scientific research. On June 12 the Chinese space agency said it would soon make public a road map and guide for potential international partners interested in planning, design and operation.

China expects to complete its construction of a manned space station by the end of next year. The country will also continue international cooperation, citing space projects with Italy, France and Brazil.

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