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China may launch its first mission to the Martian surface next year

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china mars global remote sensing and small rover hx 1 martian mission illustration rendering cas xinhuaAn illustration of China’s planned robotic Mars mission, called HX-1.Chinese State Administration of Science/Xinhua

  • China recently landed the first spacecraft on the far side of the moon and plans to launch a lunar sample-return mission at the end of the year.
  • The China National Space Administration is also working on a robotic Mars mission that is scheduled to launch in mid-2020 and arrive in early 2021.
  • If successful, that mission could enable future Mars missions to bring pristine samples of the red planet’s soil and rocks back to Earth by 2030.

China just landed a robotic mission on the far side of the moon for the first time in history, but the nation is plotting a longer list of ambitious firsts in space over the next decade.

At the end of 2019, the China National Space Administration intends to launch a follow-up Chang’e 5 mission to scoop up the nation’s first samples of lunar soil and return them to Earth. It’s also planning follow-up moon missions to retrieve more samples, scout for water, and examine possible locations for a lunar base for humans, according to Chinese state media.

But the country is already looking past the moon, toward Mars.

“China’s first Mars exploration mission will be implemented around 2020,” Wu Yanhua, the agency’s deputy director, said during a briefing on Monday.

That interplanetary mission is called the Mars Global Remote Sensing Orbiter and Small Rover, or HX-1.

Read more: An extraordinary year of rocket launches, meteor showers, and space exploration is here. This is a 2019 calendar of space events you can’t miss.

A January 2018 roadmap assembled by NASA and other members of the International Space Exploration Coordination Group describes the HX-1 mission as an “orbit, landing, and roving mission,” which would probe Mars’ “topographical and geological features, physical fields and internal structure, atmosphere, ionosphere, climate and environment.” 

china mars global remote sensing and small rover hx 1 martian mission spacecraft illustration rendering cas xinhuaAn artist’s concept of China’s HX-1 Mars mission spacecraft departing Earth.Chinese State Administration of Science/Xinhua

The mission plans call for sending a lander, rover, and satellite to Mars, with the lander and rover traveling to the red planet aboard the orbiter. Once the satellite arrives at Mars and enters orbit, a landing capsule would depart from the orbiter. Then it would scream through the planet’s atmosphere, deploy a supersonic parachute, and rocket the lander-rover spacecraft to the Martian surface.

The rover would then roll off the top of the lander, a process similar to Chang’e 4 and Chinese lunar-landing missions before it. The solar-powered, six-wheeled vehicle would be equipped with ground-penetrating radar to study Mars’ internal structure and look for pockets of water ice, according to state media.

china mars global remote sensing and small rover hx 1 martian mission lander laser illustration rendering cas xinhuaA rendering of China’s HX-1 rover exploring Mars.Chinese State Administration of Science/Xinhua

China’s space agency describes its 2020 Mars mission as a key part of future efforts to scoop up and launch Martian rocks and soil back to Earth — in part to determine if and when life was present on the red planet. Chinese scientists hope to get their hands on what may be the first-ever pristine samples of Martian soil by 2030, according to Popular Mechanics.

Some researchers believe that the sites of ancient oasis-like pools on Mars are the best places to dig in search of fossilized remains of microbial Martian life, if it exists.

Getting to and landing on Mars is ridiculously hard

mars-facts-missionsAbout one third of all missions to Mars — launched by the US, Russia, Europe, and China — have failed. This tally does not include InSight, which is ongoing.Samantha Lee/Business Insider

HX-1 is scheduled to launch in July or August of next year. At that time, the distance between Earth and Mars — and the energy required to reach the red planet — will be near its minimum.

This launch window is roughly the same as that of NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, which is a car-size, nuclear-powered robot that will set up the US for a Martian soil-sample return. NASA is the most recent entity to successfully reach Mars with its InSight lander; that spacecraft is designed to listen for Mars quakes and deploy a “mole” probe to investigate the planet’s internal structure.

HX-1 wouldn’t mark China’s first attempt to reach Mars.

It previously partnered with Russia to launch a Mars-orbiting satellite called Yinghuo-1. The spacecraft shared space on a Russian mission (called Fobos-Grunt) headed toward the red planet. Although Russia’s rocket successfully launched the payload into low-Earth orbit, its engines failed to propel the joint Russian-Chinese mission toward Mars.

Read more: 13 incredible facts you should know about the red planet

If China can successfully pull off the landing of HX-1, it would be only the third nation ever to touch down on the Martian surface.

But experts say Mars is one of the most difficult planets to land on, since it has an atmosphere that’s thick enough to burn up a spacecraft, yet is too thin to completely slow down a mission during reentry (as can happen on Earth). In fact, roughly half of the missions that attempt to reach Mars don’t make it.

One of the latest failed landings was a European probe called Schiaparelli. Its rocket thrusters turned on prematurely, causing it to fall toward the surface from a mile high, then crash and explode.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

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