China wants to overtake the United States in the new space race. His plan: bring back samples from Mars

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The new space race continues to advance and, as happened in the first one, the United States may lose its first stages. China has announced that it hopes to return samples of Martian soil to Earth in 2031, two years earlier than the joint Euro-US mission is expected to return samples collected by the Perseverance rover.

The Tianwen-3 mission.
China has finalized some details of what will be the third Tianwen mission, according to has announced the portal Space News. The Tianwen-3 mission will leave Earth with two launches, at least one of them in late 2028. The goal is to bring samples back in July 2031.

The mission has four fundamental elements that will be loaded two by two (descent and ascent vehicles on one side, and orbiter and return module on the other) on Long March 5 and 3B rockets. This combination implies a change with respect to the initial plan to send the complete team aboard a Long March 9, the super heavy vehicle of the Chinese space agency, CNSA.

The landing on Mars would come in the fall of the following year. The sample collection mission would begin there, which would have a year until the scheduled departure date, at the end of October 2030. The return trip would culminate with the arrival of the samples on Earth in July 2031, about two years before the rest of similar scheduled missions.

A new space race has begun and everyone has the same goal: mining on the Moon

The missions that preceded it: Tianwen-1 and 2.
Tianwen-3 will be the second Tianwen mission to Mars, since Tianwen-2 its (first) objective is a near-Earth object. This mission is scheduled for 2025 and will last for about 10 years. The probe will head for the asteroid Kamo’oalewa. Kamo’oalewa is an interesting asteroid. It is a quasi-satellite of the Earth that is suspected to originate from the Moon from where it would have been fired after an impact. It measures about 40 meters and was only discovered in 2016.

After his trip to Kamo’oalewa, Tianwen-2 will deposit samples on Earth and set off on the second part of its mission. 311P/PANSTARRS is another target of great interest, an “active asteroid”, that is, an asteroid that shares some characteristics with comets.

Tianwen-1 did reach the Martian surface. China’s first interplanetary mission was a resounding success. His combination of rover and orbiter has been exploring the red planet since May of last year and has left us with interesting images.

USA, Europe and the space race.
All this while American plans accumulate delays. The Persecerance rover has been exploring the Martian surface for more than a year and preparing its samples with varying degrees of success, but the mission to collect these samples seems to be rather in its infancy.

The original plan was for the samples to arrive through a combined ESA and NASA mission in 2031. The Americans would be in charge of the vehicle in charge of collecting the samples left by Perseverance and putting them in Martian orbit, where a European probe would collect them. would collect to bring them to Earth.

The initial plan called for the probes to be launched by 2026, but after an independent review NASA seems willing to choose to split its part of the mission to gain security. This will delay the launch by a year or two and therefore leaves it up to the Chinese mission to be the first to bring Martian samples to Earth.

Other recent advances.
The Chinese space program continues to deliver news almost continuously. In the past week announced new tests of the presence of water on the Moon obtained by the Chang’e 5 mission. If the mission had already found evidence in situ, this time it has been in the samples brought to Earth where the analysis has been carried out.

Closer to us, the Asian power is also advancing in the construction of its own space station. Tiangong recently amazed us with its interior and everything indicates that its construction is proceeding according to Beijing’s plans. To this must be added the joint plans with Russia to build an international lunar station.

Also last week, China announced a project to capture solar energy from an orbiting plant. It is a pharaonic project with a view to being able to develop in less than 20 years.

Image | Tianwen-1 Mission, Steve Jurvetson/The Red Planet

The new space race continues to advance and, as happened in the first one, the United States may lose its…

The new space race continues to advance and, as happened in the first one, the United States may lose its…

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