The first image of the Chinese spacecraft slated to land on Mars was posted online this week, The Daily Mail reported Friday.
According to the report, the image was released but subsequently taken down from Chinese social media platform Weibo by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), but not before it was redistributed by Chinese media.
The image depicts a large spacecraft, named ‘Mars-1,’ covered what appears to be gold-colored insulation material, accompanied by a large banner that says the machine is undergoing its final tests.
Ye Jianpei, China's chief scientist for deep-space exploration, reportedly confirmed that all teams are ready for the launch.
The spacecraft is slated to land on Mars in 2021, in celebration of the centenary of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, in July of that year. In what is claimed to be an ambitious tri-fold mission, the probe will orbit the fourth planet in our Solar System prior to landing and surveying the surface, according to Ye.
“There are a lot of difficulties in it. If it proves to be a success, it will be the first time any country completes the three tasks in one mission,” he said, according to the Mail. “The project is very innovative.”
In April, China opened a mock Mars camp built in the Gobi Desert to mimic possible living conditions in a future Martian colony. The installation, which reportedly cost the equivalent of some $22.3 million to build, consists of a large dome and nine modules. The remote desert site is open to visits by the public.
Earlier this year, China achieved a first by putting a surface rover on the far side of the moon. Beijing seeks to repeat the win, but also bring back Moon rock samples to Earth, similar to earlier NASA missions. If the mission is successful, China will become the third nation to accomplish such a mission after the US and Russia, the Daily Mail notes.