How China Hopes to Fly Mars Samples to Earth Two Years Before NASA and ESA
“China’s Mars sample return mission aims to collect samples from the Red Planet and deliver them to Earth in 2031, or two years ahead of a NASA and ESA joint mission,” reports SpaceNews:

Lifting off in late 2028… the complex, multi-launch mission will have simpler architecture in comparison with the joint NASA-ESA project, with a single Mars landing and no rovers sampling different sites. However, if successful, it would deliver to Earth the first collected Martian samples; an objective widely noted as one of the major scientific goals of space exploration….

The mission will build on the Mars entry, descent and landing technologies and techniques demonstrated by Tianwen-1 in May 2021, as well as the regolith sampling, automated lunar orbit rendezvous and docking, and high velocity atmospheric reentry success achieved by the 2020 Chang’e-5 lunar sample return mission…. Landing on Mars would take place around September 2029. Sampling techniques will include surface sampling, drilling and mobile intelligent sampling, potentially using a four-legged robot.

The ascent vehicle will consist of two stages, using either solid or liquid propulsion, and will be required to reach a speed of 4.5 kilometers per second, according to the presentation. After rendezvous and docking with the waiting orbiter, the spacecraft will depart Mars orbit in late October 2030 for a return to Earth in July 2031.

Sun Zezhou [chief designer of the Tianwen-1 Mars orbiter and rover mission], added that the Tianwen-1 orbiter will conduct an aerobraking test in Mars orbit later this year as part of the sample return mission preparation.
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