As NASA prepares for its ambitious trip to Mars next year, China is also making significant headway on its own mission to reach the Red Planet.
China has reached a major milestone with a recent successful test of its new Mars lander, CNN reports.
In the public simulation, the Chinese space agency China National Space Administration (CNSA) demonstrated the craft’s ability to hover, slow its descent, and perform quick air maneuvers.
Being able to avoid obstacles while landing is key in making sure the craft reaches the ground without damage so it can perform the tasks it is set to do.
Conducted at a test facility near Beijing, the test involved having the Chinese lander suspended high above the ground. After hovering around, the craft then performed a controlled descent, although it did not actually proceed to land.
According to Chinese space engineers, the test was a massive success and a major step in the right direction. While the officials told local reporters, diplomats and international media that the successful test puts them on track to launch next year, they divulged no other details about the test nor the plans.
“(This simulation) is a critical milestone for the development of the Mars probe,” CNSA vice administrator, Wu Yanhua, proclaimed.
Both China and the United States have set their sights on separate exploration missions next year. While Beijing expressed interest in being a part of international space projects, the U.S. has restricted opportunities for NASA to work with CNSA.
China has long been developing the supposedly powerful Long March 5 rocket to propel its spacecraft for its Mars mission. As the rocket failed its tests in 2017, another test is expected to take place before the end of 2019.
Earlier this year, China made history after its Chang’e-4 lunar probe successfully touched down on the far side of the moon.