China announces 'all-in-one' Mars mission, to land on planet by 2021

Calls for China's own mission mounted after India reached the planet in 2014, a Xinhua report said.

China, the world's second largest economy, has announced its plans to land in Mars by the year 2021, following its neighbour India which has completed 1 year in the Red Planet on 24 September.

A Xinhua report said that calls for speeding up China's own mission mounted after India reached the planet in 2014.

China said it plans to orbit Mars, land and deploy a rover, all in one mission, and it is more complex than any other country has ever done.

"No country has tried such a complex mission before," said Sun Zezhou, the chief designer of Mars probe. The United States which has done most to explore the planet, required two separate missions before landing.

The probe will include an orbiter, a lander and a rover. After an interplanetary journey of 6 to 12 months, the probe will be positioned in orbit. The lander will then be separated, land on the surface and the rover begin its tour, while the orbiter surveys from above.

"All in one mission -- that's quite a bold attempt," Sun said after explaining the process.

The same team which has made China's lunar program a success is spearheading the Mars mission.

"We have less than five years till the launch, but we are confident. The probe is being developed by the team that completed the Chang'e-3 lunar probe," said Ye Peijian, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"The successful lunar landing laid the foundation for Mars exploration," said Sun, the chief designer of Chang'e-3 that went to the moon at the end of 2013. "It's on the moon's shoulder that we set have our mission objectives at such high level."

Most of the time, the rover will have to deal with things on its own as one-way transmissions between Mars and the Earth could take as long as 20 minutes, Sun noted. Therefore, it must be smart enough to react to whatever it meets.

China made one unsuccessful attempt in 2011 when a probe carried by a Russian rocket failed to complete the mission.

India's Mars Orbiter Mission named Mangalyaan, arrived at the Red Planet on the night of 24 September 2014.

Mangalyaan, which means "Mars craft" in Sanskrit, was the first interplanetary probe ever launched by India, and its $73 million mission is primarily a technology demonstration, officials with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) have said.