China’s unveiled illustrations of its Mars probe and rover, following earlier announcements of its plan to land on the trendiest planet for bots.
The craft will include an orbiter, a landing capsule, and a rover. China is aiming for a summer of 2020 launch on a Long March 5 carrier rocket from the Wenchang space launch center in south China’s Hainan province, according to state media. After its seven month journey, it’ll land near the equator and get to work poking around on the red planet. Four solar panels will keep the rover operational for around three Martian months.
“The challenges we face are unprecedented,” mission head Zhang Rongqia said at a press conference. But China’s still catching up to the other space powers, following Europe, Russia and India to Martian orbit. Europe’s ExoMars is hurtling through space right now, and will beat it to the surface by four years. The U.S. has had wheels in the dirt there since 1997. They’re making up for lost time with big lunar plans and a new space station in the works.
The unveiling also kicked off a public competition to name the rover and design its logo. When China’s No Name gets to Mars, will it find a world inhabited by robots to call home? With Curiosity up there getting smarter and Schiaparelli hunting for signs of life, this could become the grandest Battle Bots arena ever.