China opens ‘Mars camp’ for researchers

China is stepping up its space exploration programme with the opening of a Mars simulation camp and plans to send a rover to the red planet next year.

China opens ‘Mars camp’ for researchers
It comes at a critical time for China, which is keen to demonstrate its progress in space exploration after it became the first country to land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon in January.

Beijing plans to send another spacecraft, the Chang’e 5, to the moon at the end of this year, as well as a Mars rover in 2020, said Wu Weiren, chief designer of China’s lunar exploration programme.

Wu was also positive about the continued progress of Jade Rabbit 2, the rover that is still on the moon, adding that China’s lunar programme had been “carried out very well”.

“For the past few days and nights, we have obtained a lot of scientific data which we have recently been preparing to share with the rest of the world,” said Wu on the opening day of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing on Sunday.

“Internationally, there have been more than 120 attempts at lunar exploration while we have carried it out only five times … We started late, but the starting point was advanced,” Wu said.

“We have invested less, but this has produced a lot of scientific and technological results. We launched only a few times, but each time was a success.”

China does not disclose its annual space programme spending, but it has been estimated at US$8 billion – far less than the US, which has allocated US$21.5 billion towards Nasa’s 2019 budget.

On Friday, China opened a Mars simulation camp for researchers and tourists in the remote northwest province of Qinghai

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