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China's space race
01:57 - Source: CNN

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China plans to land a rover on Mars in 2020

A model of the Mars rover was unveiled in Shanghai

Beijing CNN  — 

After exploring the moon, China now has its sights on Mars.

The country plans to send a rover to the Red Planet in 2020, according to the country’s state news agency Xinhua.

On Tuesday, China unveiled a model of the rover in Shanghai, at the China International Industry Fair, a showcase for the country’s latest technology.

The gold-colored model is one third of the size of the real thing. The two main parts of the probe-an orbiter and a landing rover-demonstrated to the public how it will be able to reach – and then function on – the planet’s surface.

The probe’s main mission will be to conduct a comprehensive remote sensing and a surface landing, according to Niu Shengda, a satellite scientist with the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology.

The news comes after NASA scientists announced in September they had found liquid water on the surface of Mars, boosting hopes for finding life there.

Moon missions

China sent its first unmanned lunar probe to the moon two years ago as part of its Chang’e-3 mission.

In 2017, China will start the third phase of its lunar exploration by launching the Chang’e-5 spacecraft, which plans to land on the moon and return with soil samples.

Also by 2020, the year it hopes to land on Mars, China will launch a spacecraft to the moon’s “dark side” – a mission, which, if successful, would make it the first country to do so.

Experts say a major challenge facing Chinese space scientists is to keep communication between the Mars probe and its earth-bound handlers open and efficient, as the great distance between the two planets is likely to reduce signal strength.

The longest distance would be 400 million kilometers – 900 times of that between the earth and the moon – and it would take about 40 minutes for the rover to get in touch with the command station on earth, Xinhua reported.

READ: China to explore ‘dark side’ of the moon

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