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China’s ambitious plan to launch to Mars next year

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.

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’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.

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