The Chinese Space Agency announced the name of its first Mars exploration mission on Friday, saying that the project is on track to take place “in the months to come.” The project was called “Tianwen 1,” said the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) in a statement on Friday, calling the country’s planetary exploration program “Tianwen,” meaning “the quest for heavenly truth.”
According to CNSA, the program is named after a long poem by ancient Chinese poet Qu Yuan.
In November last year China conducted its first public test of a Mars lander, keeping the country on track for an unmanned exploration mission to the red planet in 2020.
The space agency said the Mars mission is due to take place “in the months to come,” according to a statement released Friday.
The US and the former Soviet Union are the only two countries to land a spacecraft on Mars so far, but the European Space Agency and India have successfully sent spacecraft to reach the orbit of the earth.
According to CNSA the probe will study Mars’ surface, geological structure, climate and atmosphere.
According to CNSA, the robotic probe will consist of an orbiter, lander, and a six-wheeled rover, which will have solar panels and hold 13 scientific instruments. The administration said the probe is expected to land on Mars before July 2021, during which the 200-kilo (441-pound) system will operate for approximately three months.
Last year, China announced it had opened a Mars simulation base in Qinghai’s Qaidam Basin, a hyper-arid area in western China that is the highest desert on Earth and has long been considered one of the best parallels to the Martian surface on our own planet.