China has announced an ambitious space program for the near future, with four new probes scheduled for launch within the next four years.
Last week’s launch of the Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope, China’s first X-ray observatory, marked an important milestone in the country’s space program.
That probe will study black holes, neutron stars, and other, elusive X-ray sources in space.
According to an announcement by the country’s State Administration for Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense, the first of four spacecraft to be launched between now and 2021 will be the China-Italy Electromagnetic Monitoring Experiment Satellite, which will study earthquakes and related phenomena.
The probe’s launch is scheduled for August.
Next year will see the launch of the China-France Oceanography Satellite, which will study wind and waves on ocean surfaces as a means of improving weather forecasting and enabling better prediction of severe storms along with mitigation of their worst effects.
In 2020, China plans to launch its first Mars mission, featuring both an orbiter and a rover.
A second collaborative project between China and France, an astronomical satellite that will study gamma rays, research dark energy, and attempt to learn more about the universe’s evolution, will be launched in 2021.
Deputy director of the Administration for Science, Technology, and Industry’s engineering department Zhao Jian noted the rapid rise of China as a space-faring nation. In just 50 years, the county transitioned from no space program to an active one exploring space astronomy, solar exploration, space physics, space life, and microgravity.
“China is open to more international collaboration in space science. China will actively conduct international cooperation in areas including lunar and Mars probes, manned space missions, and space environment exploration,” Jian said.
Future Chinese missions under consideration include Moon missions and a possible probe to Jupiter.