The chief designer of the Tianwen-1 spacecraft, Sun Zezhou, held a presentation on the project of a new Mars mission, the purpose of which will be to deliver samples of Martian soil to Earth. It confirms that China is seriously working on this project.
Chinese mission to deliver Martian soil
According to the presentation, the current plan provides for two launches in 2028 using existing carriers. The first rocket will send a descent vehicle to Mars to extract a soil sample, and a take-off stage, which will then deliver a capsule with samples into orbit. The second is the return module. It will dock with the take-off stage and, after overloading the samples, will set a return course to Earth.
If everything goes as planned, the capsule with samples of Martian soil will land in July 2031. Thus, China will become the first country in history to deliver a sample of a matter from the surface of another planet.
Mars Sample Return Mission
At the same time, if the implementation of the project is delayed, China may concede the palm of the US-European MSR (Mars Sample Return) mission jointly. Its purpose is to deliver samples of Martian soil collected by the Perseverance rover to Earth.
The current MSR mission plan calls for three launches in 2027-2028. The first will send an ERO probe to Mars, which will enter an areocentric orbit. As part of two subsequent launches, a small rover and a return module will be delivered to the Martian surface. The rover will pick up samples of Martian soil collected by the Perseverance rover and reload them to the return module. The last will launch from the surface of Mars, dock with ERO and “transfer” capsules with soil to it. After that, the device will go on a return course to our planet. The delivery of samples of Martian soil will take place in 2033.
When comparing the two projects, it is easy to notice that the architecture of the Chinese mission is simpler. It assumes one less launch and does not provide for a number of rather complex operations, such as searching for capsules with samples left on the surface of Mars with their subsequent reloading to the return module.
On the other hand, while the Chinese probe will return a regolith sample extracted directly at the landing site, the American-European mission will deliver a whole collection of samples collected by the Perseverance rover from different parts of the ancient river delta. Potentially, they can have great scientific value. Apparently, only time will tell which of the two approaches will be more correct.
Recall that recently the Chinese rover went into sleep mode due to a dust storm.
According to https://spacenews.com
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