China is sending an orbiter, lander and small rover to Mars. It is planned to launch in 2020 and touch down along with the armata of spacecraft
headed there next year. The US is sending a giant rover again. Europe and the Russians are collaborating on a rover and lander (ExoMars). The
United Arab Emirates will send the first Mars mission by a nonmajor space power: an orbiter called Hope.
For China, this will be its second attempt at a Mars mission. The first mission, Yinghuo-1, was to piggy back on the failed Russian mission,
Fobos-Grunt. The Russians were providing the ride and the probe broke up when it was supposed to kick itself out of Earth orbit. The Chinese orbiter
was lost at that time. The Global Remote Sensing Orbiter and Small Rover (yes, yes, exciting names, I am sure the Chinese will give it something
else) is a /purely/ Chinese effort. And its an ambitious one.
Their intent to be the third/fourth country (the Euros make it a bit complicated, but they are using a Russian lander) means they need to rigorously
test their designs. That they are doing. They recently released photos of their test rig. It's massive. The cabling is intended to reduce the
pull of gravity (mars' being far, far less). They even did a test landing for the press.
Let me say that I do wish them luck. Mars has a habit of munching on probes sent to it. NASA used to joke there was the Galactic Ghoul eating a good
number of the unmanned missions. The US has been the only nation to successfully land probes on the Martian surface for the last 40 years. The
Soviet Union actually landed first, but its probe died pdq after sending some images. Others have attempted (Britain with the Beagle, for example)
and even the US has screwed up (Mars Polar Lander).
We will see if the China can join the Americans, Russians and even Indians in getting an orbiter around Mars. And if they can get their lander with
its rover down as well. We'll know is around than two years.
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