After landing a remote-controlled rover on the red planet, China is working on its next space mission to send a crewed mission to Mars in 2033. It also intends to build a permanently inhabited base on Mars and extract its resources. China’s future space plans come after a string of successful space missions. It has begun construction of its own space station, and has also sent three astronauts up there.
Wang Xiaojun, head of the state-owned China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), at a space conference – Global Space Exploration in Russia said the first step in China’s plans is to use robots to explore the red planet to sample its surface and help select a place to build a base. “The next stage would be to send astronauts up to Mars to build a base station there. Then China wants large-scale Earth-to-Mars cargo missions.” He added that the Chinese have earmarked 2033, 2035, 2037, 2041 and 2043 for such missions. “It will explore technology to fly astronauts back to Earth.”
Wang said China’s Mars plan envisages fleets of spacecraft shuttling between Earth and Mars, and major development of its resources. “To shorten the travel time, spacecraft would have to tap energy released from nuclear reactions in the form of heat and electricity, in addition to traditional chemical propellants,” he explained. “China would have accomplished round trips with a total flight time of a few hundred days.”
The expert highlighted that China is also planning to establish a base in the south pole of the Moon, and is deploying robotic expeditions to asteroids and Jupiter around 2030. It includes in-situ resource utilization tests, for example extracting subsurface water from beneath the surface or generating oxygen, are intended to build a platform for initial human missions, starting with an orbital outpost, then landing on the planet’s surface.
Space.com stated that nuclear technologies would allow a large decrease in the size of the Earth-Mars transfer vehicles. This method of propulsion has been discussed and researched for decades but still requires a number of technological breakthroughs and its prospective use have typically been met with environmental concerns.