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China Plans to Send this Bad Boy to Mars in 2020

The 2020s are shaping up to be a busy and diverse era in Martian surface exploration.

by Becky Ferreira
Aug 25 2016, 10:00am

China's new Mars rover concept. Image: CCTV News/YouTube

The Chinese space program has released the first visuals of its Mars rover, currently slated for launch to the Red Planet in the summer of 2020. If all goes well, the six-wheeled, 200-kilogram vehicle will be delivered to surface by a landing capsule that will touch down in Mars's northern hemisphere.

The rover will then wake up on a pedestal and roll down a specialized ramp to roam the Martian wilds for a mission projected to last three months. As yet, it has not been named, but there is a public competition to find the right moniker for it.

China's Mars rover in action. Image: CCTV America/YouTube

Many attempts to send rovers to Mars have been made in the past, but so far, only NASA has been able to stick the landing. That is likely to change in the near future. The first ExoMars rover, developed jointly by the European Space Agency and Russia's Roscosmos, will arrive at the planet in October, with a second iteration planned for 2020.

NASA plans to launch its own next-generation rover that same year. Factoring in China's new vehicle, it looks like the next decade of Martian surface exploration will be busy, and diverse.

China has already demonstrated impressive capabilities in the realm of interplanetary road trips. In December 2013, the nation's Chang'e 3 spacecraft pulled off the first "soft landing," as opposed to crash landing, on the Moon since the Soviet Union's Luna 24 touched down in 1976.

Chang'e 3 delivered a lunar rover, called Yutu or "Jade Rabbit," that is equally famous for its maudlin musings on social media as for its scientific observations. Though Yutu recently died, the mission succeeded in most of its scientific goals, while also securing a working platform for future missions.

Hopefully China's next rover will follow in Yutu's footsteps by making good on the nation's ambitious space goals—and by delighting the world with an adorable online persona.