China recently announced its first international cooperative project of a joint Chinese-Russian exploration of Mars that has received attention from the governments of both countries. On March 26, 2007, with the Chinese and Russian heads of state as witnesses, the director of the China National Space Administration, Sun Laiyan, and the head of the Russian Space Agency, Anatoly Perminov, both signed the "Cooperative Agreement between the China National Space Administration and the Russian Space Agency on joint Chinese-Russian exploration of Mars."
Relevant agencies recently held a seminar in Beijing to decide the general proposal of the Chinese-Russian joint exploration of Mars, the agenda for major sectors, and all relevant documents. In the seminar, the two countries announced the establishment of a joint group of experts on the Mars exploration program, led by Xu Boming, researcher with the Number Eight Institute of Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. Sun Jiadong, one of China's "founding fathers of two bombs and one satellite," and an expert from the Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, was assigned to be the consultant for the program. Members of this group are experts from the Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), and other groups. This is an important historic milestone for Chinese-Russian space relations that will play an active role in promoting a strategic, Chinese-Russian collaborative partnership.
Wu Ji, a leading scientist with the CAS Center for Space Environmental Research and Forecast, said that so far there has not been any specific space exploration program on Mars. Therefore, the Chinese-Russian joint exploration of Mars receives wide support from the international community. In 2003 and 2005, China successfully launched manned spacecraft. Its lunar probe program is also under way. Russia has far more experience in deep space exploration than China. There is no doubt that the two countries will join forces to help China participate in deep space exploration. Moreover, US experts believe that the bilateral cooperation will achieve a win-win result. Russia has obtained a superior status in its national space exploration technology. China has maintained a strong momentum in its economic development. China can help Russia economically; at the same time taking advantage of Russia's cutting-edge technology for deep space exploration, so as to make many leaps in the scientific research of space.
Exploration will mainly focus on external environment of Mars
Compared with the attitudes of the "Apollo moon-landing plan" in 1960s, countries of the world are now holding more sober and practical attitudes towards deep space exploration, and are no longer blindly pursuing first place. The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Space Object and Debris Monitoring and Research Center first proposed a joint Chinese-Russian program for the exploration of Mars. According to this program, China will develop small satellites and use them mainly to explore the external environment of Mars. In the past, Mars exploration programs mainly focused on searching for life and water on the planet. It is a new idea to focus on the inspection of its external environment.
The orbit of Mars exploration is much longer than that of the Moon, because the distance between Earth and Mars is much greater than that between Earth and the Moon. It would usually take a probe about seven to eight days to fly from the Earth to the Moon; while it would take a probe around nine to ten months to reach Mars. Additionally, it has to reach a speed of 11.6 kilometers per second, so as to break away from the Earth's gravitational force, and enter outer space. In other words, a probe launched in October 2009 will reach Mars, approximately, in August of 2010.
China and Russia will use a carrier rocket to launch China's small satellite and Russia's Forbes detectors. Then the Forbes detectors will send China's small satellite into the orbit of Mars. After that, the small satellite will automatically complete the mission of space environment exploration. Both will also conduct joint explorations of the space environment of Mars, including an exploration of the occultation of Mars' ionosphere. China's small satellite will fly around Mars for a year and send data and photographs back to Earth. Space center researchers will use these photographs and data to research Mars' space environment; concentrating on the magnetic field of Mars and the interaction between ionospheres, escape particles and solar wind.
By People's Daily Online