Beijing placed a spacefaring rocket meant for Mars exploration via rover in position for launch Friday, the Associated Press reported.
The rocket, known as Tianwen-1, marks China's first attempt at a mission to Mars. Planning to launch next week, the PRC hopes this will be the first of many moves in its attempt to dominate space.
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If the mission succeeds, "China will really have made its stand for its space agency and for its country," Namrata Goswami, an analyst for an Indian defense analysis institute, told the Wall Street Journal.
China has ramped up space activity for geopolitical ends under Xi Jinping's leadership. In recent weeks, Moscow hinted at a potential partnership with the space mission. Russia and China are developing anti-satellite weapons with grave security implications for American technology in orbit. China also landed a robotic explorer on the moon's far side last year, the first time in history such a feat has been accomplished.
Wu Yanhua, the deputy chief of China's National Space Administration, said in 2017 that Beijing's "overall goal is that, by around 2030, China will be among the major space powers of the world."
NASA has never worked with China due to national security concerns. China has countered the United States and its allies in spacefaring missions by increasing its capabilities over the past two decades. Space missions could give the communist regime a strong position against American technological prowess and could assist its domestic-facing propaganda campaigns.
"The Chinese government has certainly tried to use space as part of its arguments for de facto legitimacy," Heritage Foundation scholar Dean Cheng told the Atlantic in 2017. "It is no accident that senior science leaders are consistently photographed at the launch of major missions."
Washington has attempted to address the rising Chinese space program with renewed investment in its own extraterrestrial efforts. Last year, Vice President Mike Pence and NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine unveiled the Artemis program, which strives to put American boots on the moon by 2024.
"It is America's destiny to be the leader amongst nations in our adventure into the great unknown," Pence said last year. "And we believe it."