BEIJING: China has unveiled illustrations of a Mars probe and rover it aims to send to the Red Planet at the end of the decade in a mission that faces “unprecedented” challenges, state media said on Wednesday. China, which is pouring billions into its space program and working to catch up with the US and Europe, announced in April it aims to send a spacecraft “around 2020” to orbit Mars, land and deploy the rover. Zhang Rongqiao, chief architect of the project, said Tuesday they were targeting July or August of that year for the launch, the Xinhua news agency reported. “The challenges we face are unprecedented,” the report quoted him as saying. A Long March-5 carrier rocket will be dispatched from the Wenchang space launch center in the southern island province of Hainan, Xinhua said, citing Ye Peijian, a mission consultant. The lander will separate from the orbiter at the end of a journey of around seven months and touch down near the Martian equator, where the rover will explore the surface, it said. The 200-kilogramme (441 pounds) rover has six wheels and four solar panels, and will operate for around 92 days, according to Xinhua and other Chinese media reports. It will carry 13 sets of equipment including a remote sensing camera and a ground-penetrating radar to study the soil, environment and inner structure of Mars and look for traces of water and ice, Xinhua said. China has an ambitious, military-run, multi-billion-dollar space program that Beijing sees as symbolizing the country’s progress and a marker of its rising global stature.