China's New Mars Rover: Red & (Almost) Ready To Roll

Red rover red rover can China come over? A vermilion red, six-wheeled vehicle that just might be China's new Mars Rover took center stage recently at the 16th China International Industry Fair in Shanghai. The as-yet unnamed robotic rover could play a huge role in the next, unmanned stage of China's ambitious Mars exploration program.

Based loosely on the successful Yutu (“Jade Rabbit”) lunar rover that roamed the surface of the moon from mid-December 2013 through mid-January 2014, the rover displays a number of modifications appropriate for a rover destined for the Red Planet.

The rover was developed by researchers from the Shanghai Aerospace System Engineering Institute; the same team that built the Yutu rover. The display model prominently features retractable solar arrays, a high-resolution camera, and wheels that closely resemble those used on NASA's Curiousity Mars rover.

“The current designed speed of the rover remains as 200 meters per hour”, stated Xiao Jie of the SASEI. “It can climb a slope of up to 30 degrees, and cross a barricade 350 millimeters high. These are the designs for its capabilities.”

A November 3rd, 2014 article at the People's Daily website confirmed that the rover on display in Shanghai is a “second-generation” prototype developed specifically to cope with Martian terrain and topography.

According to China's long-term space exploration plan, missions are in the works to send a probe to Mars by 2020, followed by a sample return mission by 2030. Either (or both) of these missions could feature a robotic rover component and with a prospective lead time of 5 to 15 years, China's mission planners have got plenty of time to get their rover ready for prime time. (via CRI-English and GB Times)