China Unveils Plans to Send Spacecraft to Jupiter and Uranus & many more

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It was 2,300 years in the past that the traditional Chinese poet Qu Yuan wrote the poem “Tianwen,” or “Heavenly Questions.” It is simply now that China’s Tianwen spacecraft have begun flying missions designed to provide you with some heavenly solutions. And as Space.com stories, these missions have gotten more and more formidable.

In 2020, the Tianwen 1 spacecraft was launched to Mars, carrying the Zhurong rover, which efficiently landed on the floor of the Red Planet in May 2021. Already, China has introduced plans to launch Tianwen 2 on a pattern return mission to the near-Earth asteroid Kamo’oalewa in 2025, and to comply with that with Tianwen 3, flying its personal pattern return mission to Mars in 2028.

But simply this week, on the International Astronautical Congress in Paris, China went even additional, unveiling plans for an formidable dual-planet mission for Tianwen 4 as early as 2030. The mission would come with two spacecraft, the bigger of which might be focused for Jupiter and would enter orbit across the Jovian moon Callisto. A second, smaller spacecraft, would then fly onto Uranus.

Nine NASA spacecraft have both flown by or orbited Jupiter, although none has ever orbited any of its moons. Only one spacecraft, NASA’s Voyager 2, has ever reconnoitered Uranus, flying by the planet in 1986. Both Chinese spacecraft may additionally make an asteroid flyby on their manner to the outer photo voltaic system, although that risk has but to be determined upon.

“The scientific goals are still under consideration,” Wang Qiong of the China National Space Administration informed Space.com. Beijing got here to the house sport late—particularly in contrast to the U.S. and the previous Soviet Union. But it’s decidedly making up for that misplaced time now.

This story initially appeared in TIME Space, our weekly publication overlaying all issues house. You can join right here.

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

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