China sets sights on collecting samples from Mars

BEIJING Wed Oct 10, 2012 12:28pm EDT

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China, which has yet to put a person on the moon, aims to land probes on more distant Mars to collect samples by 2030, the chief scientist of its lunar orbiter project said in remarks reported on Wednesday.

China's ambition to reach Mars is a reflection of its growing economic might, allowing it to develop its space exploration capability.

Bringing back samples from Mars was set as a top priority in a recent U.S. science priorities review, although the cost has been seen as astronomical. But a planning group put out a report in September on how to accomplish the mission affordably.

Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist of China's lunar orbiter project, was quoted by the official news agency Xinhua as saying that a three-phase probe to Mars was envisaged.

Briefing the Chinese Society of Astronautics on the moon-landing orbiter Chang'e-3, he said that program could help build a telecommunication network that covers a future Mars probe. Chang'e-3 is expected to be launched in the second half of 2013.

The three stages of the Mars probe will entail remote sensing, soft-landing and exploration, and the probe would return after automatic sampling, Ouyang said.

(Reporting By Lucy Hornby; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Comments (1)
gregbrew56 wrote:
Can we depend on China to properly handle the possible organisms that a sample might contain? More complex organisms on Earth (like humans) have evolved immune system mechanisms to deal with micro-organisms that have existed here for eons. A living, “ancient” organism from Mars (their existence has not yet been proven) could wreak havoc on every living thing on Earth if released into the wild. The threatening organisms don’t even need to be terribly complex – prions come to mind as one example.

International protocols simply MUST be established to deal with this potential threat BEFORE a sample-return mission is launched!

Oct 10, 2012 1:30pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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