China is making strides in its space program. The East Asian nation has just launched its first X-ray space telescope designed to observe pulsars, gamma-ray bursts, and black holes.
Four Major Probes
On Friday, June 16, the country's State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence revealed that China will also launch four more space probes before 2021 in the nation's efforts to develop space science.
The China-Italy Electromagnetic Monitoring Experiment Satellite, which will study phenomena linked to earthquakes, is set for launch in August.
The China-France Oceanography Satellite, which will conduct studies on ocean-surface wind and waves, is set for launch next year. Data gathered by this mission is expected to improve the forecasts for ocean waves and boost efficiency in preventing and mitigating disasters.
An astronomical satellite that China developed in collaboration with France will be launched in 2021. The satellite will gather data on gamma rays and those that can shed light on dark energy and how the universe evolved.
The country's first Mars probe is also expected to launch in 2020. The probe will carry out orbiting and roving exploration on the Red Planet.
National Space Administration deputy chief Wu Yanhua earlier revealed that this will be followed by a second mission that involves collecting surface samples from Mars.
The launch of the four probes will be China's major missions for its space program following the launch of the country's first X-ray space telescope, the Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope, on Thursday, June 15, but China has more plans.
In the coming years, it will have a lunar mission and even considers sending a mission to the Jupiter system.
What makes the planned lunar mission different from earlier missions launched by other countries and China itself is that it will be the first to explore the dark side of the Earth's natural satellite.
"China will actively conduct international cooperation in areas including lunar and Mars probes, manned space missions and space environment exploration," said the administration's system engineering department deputy director Zhao Jian.
Latecomer In Space Race
China's plans show how it is making up for it being a latecomer in the global space race. The country did not send its first space satellite until 1970, after the United States has successfully sent a manned mission to the moon.
China, however, has since pumped billions of dollars and other resources into its space science research and training. It has so far landed a probe on the lunar surface and launched a space lab that it hopes could pave way for a space station. The country has also managed to send five crews into space.
"Our overall goal is that, by around 2030, China will be among the major space powers of the world," Wu Yanhua recently said.
Not Just China
Besides China, another country making waves in the field of space science is India. Earlier this year, the Indian Space Research Organisation made a record by launching 104 satellites into space in one mission.