China aims to send its first crewed mission to Mars in 2033, with regular follow-up flights to follow, under a long-term plan to build a permanently inhabited base on the Red Planet and extract its resources, Reuters reports.
The ambitious plan, which will intensify a race with the United States to plant humans on Mars, was disclosed in detail for the first time after China landed a robotic rover on Mars in mid-May in its inaugural mission to the planet.
Crewed launches to Mars are planned for 2033, 2035, 2037, 2041 and beyond, the head of China's main rocket maker, Wang Xiaojun, told a space exploration conference in Russia recently by video link.
Before the crewed missions begin, China will send robots to Mars to study possible sites for the base and to build systems to extract resources there, the official China Space News reported on Wednesday, citing Wang, who is head of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology.
For human inhabitation on Mars, crews would have to be able to use the planet's resources, such as extracting any water beneath its surface, generating oxygen on-site and producing electricity. China must also develop technology to fly astronauts back to Earth.