The Chinese space agency has announced ambitious plans to return samples from Mars to Earth.
China’s plans to fly to Mars and back are estimated to be two years ahead of NASA and the European Space Agency.
The Chinese National Space Administration launched its Tianwen space program in July 2020.
The Tianwen-1 mission placed a spacecraft in Mars orbit and a rover landed on the surface of Mars in May 2021.
Tianwen-2 will explore a nearby asteroid in 2025, but Tianwen-3 could be the agency’s crown jewel.
A presentation by a senior Chinese space official said Tianwen-3 will launch to Mars in 2028 and return in 2031 with samples collected from the red planet.
If Tianwen-3 succeeds, it would be the first time matter has been reclaimed from another planet and returned to Earth.
Plans for Tianwen-3 indicate that two separate rockets will complete the 125-million-mile trek to the neighboring planet.
After the samples are collected on the ground, an ascent vehicle will lift off from Mars and autonomously reconnect to the return vehicle.
Space News reported that the Chinese government supports the mission.
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 been collecting and storing samples in small tubes ever since.
Either a new rover or the Perseverance will provide the samples to the Mars Ascent Vehicle, which would lift off the surface of Mars with the payload and connect to the in-space feedback system.
In the early 2030s, samples of Martian dust, regolith and other matter will arrive on Earth for study.
Nasa said of the importance of the joint mission: “These first samples collected and returned could answer a key question: Was there ever life on Mars?” Only by bringing the samples back can we really answer the question.”
While the Chinese have largely fleshed out their mission to Mars and back, the West’s concept is still in the proposal phase.
https://www.the-sun.com/tech/5601472/chinas-plan-to-bring-mars-back-to-earth/ Inside China’s plan to bring part of Mars back to Earth while competing with Nasa for the Red Planet