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When Will China Start Mars Exploration?
Mars exploration programs in various countries are vigorously underway. As one of the powers in space technology, what should China do? When will it start to realize its dream on Mars?

According to a Beijing Youth Daily report, comparative research between Earth and Mars on the subject of space environments has been listed as an important research direction for concerned sci-tech departments in China. China is ready to strongly support domestic scientists to carry out research on the atmosphere, ionosphere, and magnetosphere of Mars, laying a solid foundation for China's future Mars space probe.

"The atmosphere of Mars may be closely connected with the mysterious soil erosion on the planet", said Liu Zhenxing, an academician of the Space Science Application Research Center under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It would be a good start for China to swiftly carry out research on the atmosphere of Mars based on existing observation data made by other countries.

Actually, a Mars probe was in China's scientific vision in the mid-1990s, according to Liu. One of the subjects of the National 863 Sci-tech Plan -- the Research Report on the Necessity and Feasibility of China's Mars Probe -- had already conducted feasible research on a Mars probe. Later, China stopped the research for some reason.

Many experts have predicted that developed countries will launch a new round of "enclosure movements" on Mars in the next few centuries. If China misses the opportunity, it will lose the qualification of sharing relative achievements on a Mars space probe in the future.

Liu suggested that China should accelerate pre-research on a Mars probe, especially on some key technology areas. Meanwhile, the experience and expertise accumulated in the course of implementing the lunar probe program would help China's exploration of Mars. China will then stand on the frontier of Mars research through active international cooperation.

(China.org.cn by Wang Qian July 10, 2003)

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