China Develops First Mars Probe

"Mars Explorer"-- the first Mars probe developed by China on its own, is now going through adjustment, which will make its debut with the public at the China Sci-Tech Week to be held in May, as learned from Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

"Mars Explorer" is made after "Mars Ranger" developed by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said Dr Ding Shuiting, dean of vehicle engineering department of the said university who is in charge of the project.

Like "Ranger", "Mars Explorer" could realize complete virtual reality through remote sensing, remote surveying technology. People on the ground could "walk", "climb" together with the probe as if sitting on it, as well as direct it to conduct exploration. Its "head", just like human's eyes, could collect all information around it and send back data to the ground for immediate analysis.

"Mars Explorer" looks like a lunar roving vehicle, having six wheels, a square-shaped body and a head weighting around 20 kg. Its whole body is linked with its wheels by only one axle, which makes it suitable to walk on uneven grounds, Dr Ding said. Besides, each of its six wheels is driving independently by two engines installed within, so it is able to deal with any complicated conditions on the ground.

Between the body and wheels is hidden with a mechanical arm, which serves to crush mineral stones into powder and send back analysis to the ground.

With an investment of only RMB 200,000 yuan, the probe is no more than a model with many mechanical details simplified, said Ding. But it is technologically qualified, as capable as US-made probe and independently developed by China.

Backgrounder: the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration plans to launch its detecting device "Ranger" to the Mars. Much bigger in size than previous probes, "Ranger" is able to cover a distance of 110 yard each day on the Mars (a time period equals to 24 hours and 37 minutes on the earth). It will carry a whole set of sophisticated devices for probing use. "Ranger" is to enter the atmospheric layer of the Mars on January 20, 2004 if everything goes on smoothly.

By PD Online Staff Member Li Heng

People's Daily Online ---