Wednesday, October 5, 2022
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China reveals plans to send spacecraft to Jupiter and Uranus

me2,300 years ago, the ancient Chinese poet Qu Yuan wrote the poem “Tianwen” or “Heavenly Questions.” It’s only now that China’s Tianwen spacecraft has begun flying missions designed to find some heavenly answers. Towards Space.com reportsthose missions are getting more and more ambitious.

In 2020, the tianwen 1 The spacecraft launched to Mars with the Zhurong rover, which successfully landed on the surface of the Red Planet in May 2021. China has already announced plans to launch Tianwen 2 on a sample return mission to the near-Earth asteroid. Kamo’oalewa in 2025, and then with Tianwen 3, flying its own sample return mission to Mars in 2028.

But just this week, at the International Astronautical Congress in Paris, China went even further, revealing plans for an ambitious two-planet mission for Tianwen 4 beginning in 2030. The mission would include two spacecraft, the largest of which would be the target of Jupiter and would go into orbit around the Jovian moon Callisto. A second, smaller spacecraft would then fly to Uranus.

Nine NASA spacecraft have flown or orbited Jupiter, although none have orbited any of its moons. Only one spaceship, the one from NASA traveler 2has ever recognized Uranus, flying past the planet in 1986. Both Chinese spacecraft could also fly past an asteroid on their way to the outer solar system, though that possibility has yet to be decided.

“The science targets are still under consideration,” Wang Qiong of the China National Space Administration told Space.com. Beijing was a latecomer to the space game, especially compared to the US and the former Soviet Union. But now he is decidedly making up for lost time.

This story originally appeared on TIME Space, our weekly newsletter covering all things space. You can sign up here.

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write to Jeffrey Kluger at jeffrey.kluger@time.com.

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