08/24/2006, 00.00
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China and Russia together to Mars

Moscow and Beijing establish a timetable for the joint mission of a spaceship to the Red Planet. China hopes to send its men on the moon by 2020.

Beijing (AsiaNews/SCMP) – The Chinese and Russian governments have set a timetable for a joint mission to Mars in 2009 to retrieve rocks from the Red Planet for research purposes. This first mission paves the way for an ambitious manned mission in the future.

Speaking at a meeting in Beijing yesterday, Ye Peijian, a senior scientist at the Chinese Academy of Space Technology, said the two nations would have responsibility for different parts of the project. Moscow would launch the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, while Beijing would provide a device on board the spacecraft to survey Mars and its satellite, Phobos.

Wu Ji, director of the Centre for Space Science and Applied Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, described the science as "a pillar of a country's overall scientific and technological development". He stressed: "No country can be a major power in space technology without research."

The mission will be another significant step in China's ambitious plans to become the world's major player in space exploration.

In 2003, China joined those nations that launched a person into space, after the US and the Soviet Union. Two years later, it sent two astronauts into orbit and another manned orbit is planned for 2007.

Beijing also has dreams of a manned mission to the moon by 2020. In a few months, scientists will first launch a lunar probe, which will orbit the moon for a year, collecting images and data on the moon's surface and environment.

Wu however admitted that the most efficient approach in the development of space technology was through international co-operation so Chinese scientists will seek the help of other nations for the moon mission.

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