China preps for 2020 Mars mission . . .
China completed a Mars landing test at its space centre in Hebei province on Thursday as it prepares for a series of missions to the red planet. In its first mission in 2020, China plans to launch a lander and an exploration rover. The U.S. and Europe are also sending rovers to Mars next year.
Doing what superpowers do . . .
China’s space program has developed rapidly as it aims to join the U.S. and Russia as global space powers. It sent a person into space in 2003 – the third country to do so – and made its first lunar landing in 2013. Last year, it became the first country to land a probe on the far side of the moon. Its Mars mission work began in 2016, and with the U.S. blocking cooperation on the international space station and space-related technologies, China is aiming to create its own station and launch it next year. Keeping up this rapid pace comes with huge financial costs - having spent about US$6 billion on its space program in 2018, China is now the world’s second-largest spender on space, behind the U.S. but ahead of Russia and Japan.
Great Wall of satellites . . .
The space race is linked closely with technology innovation and competitiveness. China now launches more rockets into space than any other country. Earlier this year it launched its first polar observation satellite to track environmental conditions and ice flows in order to assist with Arctic navigation. Given that China develops its satellites without American components, it is able to offer turnkey satellite services for communications or surveillance to third party countries.