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Countdown to China's new space programs begins

Xinhua, December 8, 2014 Adjust font size:

A full-scale model of a Chinese-made Mars rover is displayed at the 10th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, on Friday. [Liu Huaiyu/China Daily]

China hopes to put a rover on Mars around 2020, complete a manned space station around 2022 and test a heavy carrier rocket around 2030, a top space scientist revealed Sunday.

Lei Fanpei, chairman of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the main contractor for the space program, revealed the details in an interview with Xinhua after the launch of CBERS-4, a satellite jointly developed with Brazil, from the Taiyuan base, by a Long March-4B rocket.

It was the 200th flight of the Long March variants since April 1970 when a Long March-1 carried China's first satellite, Dongfanghong-1, into space.

Mars probe 2020

A feasibility study on the country's first Mars mission is completed and the goal is now to send an orbiter and rover to Mars.

There has been no official announcement about a Mars probe yet, but Lei expects a Long March-5 carrier, still at the development stage, to take the orbiter into a Martian orbit around 2020 from a new launch site on south China's island province of Hainan.

China's space scientists have had their eyes on the Red Planet as their next destination since the successful soft landing on the moon late last year.

Last month, an actual-size model of a possible Mars rover was on display at Airshow China 2014, the first glimpse of how the vehicle might turn out.

China made an unsuccessful attempt to reach Mars in 2011 aboard a Russian rocket, but failed to complete the mission because of an accident during orbital transfer.

Space station 2022

China's manned space station program is progressing steadily. Various modules, vehicles and ground facilities are nearing readiness.

Development and manufacture of major space products are at key stages, including the second space lab Tiangong-2, the Tianzhou-1 cargo ship, Long March-7 rockets and Shenzhou-11 spacecraft. The core module and two space labs will be tested soon, Lei said.

A new launch center in Hainan, the fourth after Taiyuan, Jiuquan and Xichang, is almost complete and can already launch some spacecraft.

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