China wants to be the first country to explore surface of Mars

Preparations for China’s ambitious mission to Mars in 2020 are “going smoothly”, a top space scientist said, as he told a forum of the potential for “robotic and human settlement” on the mysterious planet.

Zhang Rongqiao said China was seeking to become the first country to conduct joint orbital and surface exploration of Mars.

A probe would provide data on temperature, atmospheric conditions and landscape.

Zhang, the chief architect of the mission, said the probe would be made up of an orbiter, lander and rover.

“The lander will separate from the orbiter at the end of a journey of about seven months and touch down in a low-latitude area in the northern hemisphere of Mars, where the rover will explore the surface,” said state news agency Xinhua.

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