China Highlights Mars, Space Station Plans, for National Space Day
April 23, 2016 (EIRNS)—Chinese space officials have used the occasion of the first National Space Day, proclaimed for April 24, to reaffirm the country’s plans for Mars deep space exploration, provide more details about its upcoming multi-module space station, and express its support for international cooperation in space exploration, in a series of press briefings, television interviews, and activities nationwide. April 24 was chosen for Space Day because it marks the day in 1970 when China launched its first satellite. This year is also the 60th anniversary of China’s aerospace industry. The occasion is being celebrated with lectures and exhibitions in many cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Lanzhou, and Xi’an. (No comparable national holiday exists in the U.S. The Russians celebrate Cosmonautics Day, each April 12.)
Xu Dazhe, director of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), at a press conference April 22 in Beijing, described China’s Mars mission, reporting that on Jan. 11, the central government had given its formal approval. In fact, last November, a scale model of a Mars lander was put on public display. He said that although China has sent its lunar spacecrft into space,
"only by completing this Mars probe mission can China say it has embarked on the exploration of deep space, in the true sense."
It is a daring mission, which includes an orbiter, lander, and rover which will "walk on Mars," as described by veteran space expert, Ye Peijian. It will be the first time all three elements will be tried together on a first Mars mission. The exploration of Mars, Ye said, has significance for understanding the evolution of the universe, the structure of matter, and the origins of life, as Xinhua paraphrases. He explained that Mars is the most worthy place, in terms of the prospect of emigrating mankind in the future. With a 2020 launch to Mars, the craft will arrive the following year, when China’s celebrates the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China.
It was also announced that China has now given a name to the core module, which is the first space station element, and is slated for a 2018 launch. It will be called "Tianhe-1," meaning galaxy or Milky Way, appropriate, as it will include astronomical studes, in addition to a full array of microgravity experiments.
In the recent few years, international space cooperation has become a focus for China. All spacefaring nations have been invited to contribute to the upcoming space station; the first invitation to participate in China’s manned space program. In his press briefing, CNSA director Xu, stressed that China and Russia have "a good mechanism of cooperation." He announced that Igor Komarov, the head of Roscosmos, would arrive in Beijing today, to take part in the National Space Day celebrations. Ever hopeful that the self-destructive U.S. policy prohibiting bilateral space cooperation with Chiina will change, Xu told reporters: "When I saw the U.S. film, ’The Martian,’ which envisages China-U.S. cooperation on a Mars rescue mission under emergency circumstances, it shows that our U.S. counterparts very much hope to cooperate with us."