[FPSPACE] China and Russia Plan Mars Mission
ljk4 at msn.com
Thu Apr 5 13:20:49 EDT 2007
China And Russia Plan Mars Mission
RSA file illustation of a possible Mars lander design.
by Peter Harmsen
Beijing (AFP) March 28, 2007
China announced Wednesday it will launch a joint mission with Russia to Mars
in 2009, marking "an important milestone" in space cooperation between the
A small Chinese satellite will take off on a Russian rocket, according to
the agreement signed Monday between the China National Space Administration
and the Russian Federal Space Agency, the Chinese space body said.
The agreement, signed during an ongoing three-day visit to Russia by Chinese
President Hu Jintao, follows pledges by Moscow in recent months to work
closely with Beijing on exploration of both Mars and the moon.
"This is an important milestone in Sino-Russian space cooperation," the
Chinese space administration said as it unveiled the details of the Mars
mission in a statement posted on its website.
According to the agreement, a small satellite developed by China would be
launched along with "Phobos Explorer," a Russian spacecraft, probably in
October 2009, the administration reported.
After entering Mars' orbit -- 10 to 11 months later -- the Chinese satellite
would be detached from the spacecraft and probe the Martian space
environment, it said.
The "Phobos Explorer," carrying equipment partly developed by the Hong Kong
Polytechnic University, would land on Phobos, a Martian moon, and return to
Earth with soil samples, according to the administration.
The trip to the Red Planet could be a case of Chinese money mixing with
Russian science, according to observers.
"No one has more experience in space exploration than the Russians, and
there's no question that their technology is far ahead of China's," said
Tong Huiquan, an astronomer at the Nanchang Institute of Technology in
"But China's economy is doing better than Russia's, and China can provide
Russia with some economic assistance, so it's fair to say it's a win-win
situation," he said.
The state-owned China Daily newspaper suggested the mission, which has
previously been outlined in the Chinese media, was of scientific value, as
it would yield information on the origins of the solar system and Earth.
Even so, many observers have seen China's revived interest in space as a
reflection of its great power aspirations, and a source of national pride.
"Our national strength has risen," Zhang Ming, an astronomy professor at
eastern China's Nanjing University told AFP. "It's a road that we absolutely
In 2003 China successfully launched astronaut Yang Liwei into orbit,
becoming the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United
States to put a man in space.
It has said it hoped to launch a lunar exploration satellite some time this
year as part of a programme that aimed to place an unmanned vehicle on the
moon by 2012.
China's space program can be traced back to the mid-1950s, when it was
started with Soviet help during a period of warm ties between the two giants
of the Communist bloc.
Even China's recent foray into manned space travel has come about with some
assistance, as Chinese astronauts are known to have received advanced
training in Russia.
Despite the history of cooperation, Chinese researchers had few illusions
about the extent of the knowhow that Russia would be willing to share.
"Although science knows no borders, technology does, and there's no way
others will let you in on their most advanced technological knowhow," said
Zhang, of Nanjing University.
"It's hard to tell what kind of cooperation the future will bring, but it
probably will help us add to our overall technological and scientific
Source: Agence France-Presse
More information about the FPSPACE