China won’t be the first country to retrieve lunar soil samples at the end of 2019 as part of its upcoming Chang’e-5 mission — NASA pulled off that feat in 1969.
But if all goes according to plan, the country could make history with an even more ambitious endeavor, by bringing back samples of Martian soil in 2030.
And if the country’s recent space exploration missions are anything to go by, if it might just make it there. China’s National Space Administration successfully landed a spacecraft on the far side of the Moon earlier this year, and even managed to sprout a couple of cotton seeds inside an enclosed container.
But one step at a time. China’s HX-1 — a six-wheeled lander slated for touchdown on Mars in 2021 — will explore the internal structure of the planet without grabbing a souvenir to bring back to Earth. It will however be a key step in China’s future efforts to bring back samples from Mars by 2030.
Getting there — retrieving samples or not — is far from easy to say the least. But considering the successes of China’s recent lunar missions, it might not be as much of a stretch.
More on China’s lunar missions: Bad News: That Moon Plant Everybody Was Talking About Is Dead