BEIJING, March 2 (Xinhua) -- China is likely to launch its first probe to explore the surface of Mars in 2013, a chief scientist said here Wednesday.
"Mars is the first choice for mankind's interplanetary explorations as it is the closest Earth-like planet to Earth and could have life and be turned into a habitable place," Ye Peijian, chief scientist of deep space exploration at the China Academy of Space Technology, told Xinhua.
The mission will use China-made rockets, observation device and detector, said Ye, member of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, before the annual session of the country's top political advisory body, which is scheduled to open Thursday.
China will update and modify its lunar probes to develop a Mars probe, he said.
The probe should either be launched in November 2013 when Mars and Earth are closest to each other, or failing that in 2016, he said, adding that the probe will be equipped with the latest developed detector.
However, the plan needs government approval first, he added.
China's Mars explorer, Yinghuo-1, is scheduled to be launched from a Russian rocket in November this year to probe the space environment and magnetic fields of Mars.
Special Report: NPC, CPPCC Annual Sessions 2011