Houston, there is no problem here! On Thursday, November 14, 2019, China successfully completed a critical landing test ahead of its initial plans to conduct a historic unmanned mission to Mars in 2020. The Mars lander underwent a hover and landing test in the Hebei province city of Huailai, an hour and held drive north of Beijing. Officials say the site mirrored the slope and crater landscape of the planet, emphasizing the safe landing as one of the biggest challenges facing the Mars mission. Head of China National Space Administration Zhang Kejian noted, “In 2016, China officially began the Mars exploration mission work, and currently all of the different development work is progressing smoothly. The hovering-and-obstacle avoidance test for the Mars lander being carried out today makes up a crucial part of the development process.”
If successful, China will become only the second country in the world to achieve this victory behind the United States (the Soviet Union landed a spacecraft on Mars in 1971 and 1973). There have been eight successful American Mars landings spanning from 1976 to 2018. With U.S. space agency NASA currently planning another Mars mission next year, whispers of a second Space Race between China and the United States are emerging. Though China didn’t launch its first satellite into space until 1970, it has since injected billions of dollars into space exploration, research and training. In a major achievement for China’s space program, the Chang’e-4 lunar probe successfully touched down on the far side of the moon last year. With plans for a manned lunar mission in the 2030s, China is developing its program to rival that of the United States.
Despite rumors of another Space Race, the development in space technology from both the United States and China can only be beneficial for future innovation. China is expected to complete a modular space station around 2022 while NASA is said to start construction on a new space station laboratory that will orbit the moon. This has the potential to serve as a pit stop for all missions to other parts of the solar system. The growing attention given to space exploration in China only bolsters the broader industry, encouraging modern technological advancement and a renewed passion for the future of space expedition.