According to Universe Today, China is planning to bring a sample from Mars back to Earth by 2028. This would mean they would accomplish the feat of returning Martian samples to Earth two years before the completion of NASA-ESA’s Mars Sample Return (MSR) project. This comes during China’s continued push to position itself as a space superpower and to compete directly with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the United States.
Astronauts On Mars
But China’s spacefaring ambitions don’t stop with retrieving a Mars sample, or with creating the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), and expanding the Tiangong space station, both of which it has proposed. Within the next decade, China wants to complete missions to Mars that will make their taikonauts the first humans to reach the Red Planet. Before they get that far, though, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) will prepare to collect soil samples on Mars with two launches that will take place in 2028. These will be the third in the nation’s Tianwen program (Tianwen-3) and will be set to return to Earth with samples in tow in July of 2031.
Replicating Mars’ Atmosphere
Scientists in China have also said that they have formulated a new mathematical model that allows the simulation of the atmosphere on Mars. The Global Open Planetary atmospheric model for Mars, sometimes called GoPlanet-Mars, or GoMars, is being used in research conducted by CNSA in the lead-up to the Tianwen-3. Research scientists from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics Chinese Academy of Sciences (IAP-CAS), the State Key Laboratory of Numerical Simulation of Atmospheric Science and Geohydrodynamics (LASG), and the School of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (SEPS-UCAS) recently published a paper outlining the new model with the title “Development of a new generation of Mars atmosphere model GoPlanet-Mars.”
The Race To Mars
This new work in China seeking to understand the Mars environment was led by the CAS-IAP’s senior researcher, Wang Bin, a climate-modeling specialist. This study comes amid increased interest in Mars as multiple space agencies around the world have mounted new missions focused on Mars exploration in the past 20 years. In addition to a recent NASA mission featuring a helicopter on Mars, there are also current projects involving two rovers, seven orbiters, and ten robotic missions.
In addition to China’s ambitions, there are many more Mars missions planned over the course of the next 10 years, some of them expected to include crews. This means there is a great deal of interest in the weather cycles and environmental protection on Mars, as these conditions are crucial to planning Martian missions. The need for such information motivated the Chinese research team to build their model, which attempts to recreate the carbon dioxide, dust, and water cycles on Mars—the three main cycles of its weather systems.
Mars Colonization Next?
Tests in China on the new Mars weather model were successful, showing that the GoMars model was effective in recreating the characteristics of the Martian environment and at simulating the Mars weather patterns. Plans now include creating a virtual Mars simulator using the new methodology to help prepare for Martian missions. As scientists and researchers in China, the United States, and around the world continue to set their sights on Mars, further advancement in human exploration of space will only continue to grow.