December 5, 2008

China Teaming With Russia In Mars Expedition

China and Russia have plans to send two satellite probes to Mars and one of its moons in October 2009, according to a Shanghai Space Administration official.

Chen Changya, who is also deputy designer-in-chief of China's Mars rover, reported plans on Wednesday at an aerospace exhibition in Shanghai.

China intends to send a small spacecraft called Yinghuo-1 into orbit by August 2010. Yinghuo-1 will collect scientific data using two cameras while in orbit. It will constantly transmit data back to space headquarters on Earth via a long-distance transmission system. However, the spacecraft will never return to Earth because it will have a one year life span.

Officials plan on using a Russian rocket to ferry the Chinese probe. The two countries' satellites would travel together for 11 months, with the Chinese probe powered by Russia's, before separating on entering Mars' orbit, according to Beijing News.

Designers still have to determine how to keep the solar-powered probe functioning during seven "long shadow periods," which last 8.8 hours when the sun is blocked out by Mars.

While it could turn itself off to conserve energy, the concern was that it might "freeze to death" in temperatures of 200 degrees below Celcius and not be able to turn itself back on.

Russia's Mars spacecraft is being built to land on the surface of the red planet.

China has already developed 4 sample craft related to the Mars exploration program, two of which have already been transported to Russia.
China also has set a goal of putting a man on the moon and launching a 20-tonne space station by 2020.

In 2003, China became the third country to put a man in space with its own rocket, after the Soviet Union and the United States.