China, working jointly with Russia, plans to launch its first Mars probe, Yinghuo-1, in October 2011 along with Russia’s “Phobos Explorer” from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, following a 2-year delay.
The Yinghuo-1 probe is intended to orbit Mars for approximately one year, studying the planet’s upper atmosphere, but an equally important goal is to demonstrate that the Chinese space program is capable of executing such a mission so far from Earth.
According to a five-year plan, China also plans to send a probe to Mars indpendently by 2013 and to Venus by 2015, besides setting up its own manned space station by 2017 to carry out space science experiments. It may also send humans (taikonauts) into deep space and to the surface of the moon by 2025.
China plans to launch two space laboratories before 2016 to study the key technologies involved in building a space station, with a view to constructing a space station for taikonauts to serve on board over an extended period around 2020.