Inside China's plan to bring chunk of Mars back to Earth as it competes with Nasa for Red Planet | The Sun
CHINA'S space agency has revealed ambitious plans to bring samples of Mars back to Earth.
China's plans to go to Mars and back are an estimated two years ahead of Nasa and the European Space Agency.
The Chinese National Space Agency began its Tianwen space program in July 2020.
The Tianwen-1 mission deposited a spacecraft in Mars' orbit and a rover touched down on the Martian surface in May 2021.
Tianwen-2 will explore a nearby asteroid in 2025, but Tianwen-3 might be the agency's crown jewel.
A presentation by a senior Chinese space official said Tianwen-3 will take off for Mars in 2028 and return with samples collected from the red planet in 2031.
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If Tianwen-3 is successful, it would be the first instance of matter from another planet being retrieved and brought back to Earth.
Plans for Tianwen-3 indicate two separate rockets will make the 125million mile trek to the planet next door.
After samples are collected on the ground, an ascent vehicle will blast off from Mars and reconnect with the return vehicle autonomously.
Space News reported that the Chinese government supports the mission.
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Nasa is working with the European Space Agency to develop a similar sample collection and return mission.
The Perseverance rover landed on Mars in 2021 and has since collected and stashed samples in small tubes.
Either a new rover or the Perseverance will deliver the samples to the Mars Ascent Vehicle, which would take off from the Martian surface with the payload and connect with the return system in space.
In the early 2030s, the samples of Martian dust, regolith and other matter will arrive on Earth for examination.
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Nasa said of the joint mission's significance: "These first collected and returned samples could answer a key question: did life ever exist on Mars? Only by bringing the samples back can we truly answer the question."
While the Chinese have largely mapped out their mission to Mars and back, the West's concept is still in its proposal phase.
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