The Chinese Government has announced that intends to set up a permanent base on Mars, with an intent to colonise.
"We received a leaked memo," said head of Mars operations at NASA, Phoebe Moss. "It outlined an ambitious colonisation plan by China. We've checked it over, and it looks feasible and we believe they are already well under way."
China has the world's largest population, but it is unlikely that they are looking at Mars as a possible annex.
"Even if you could fit a thousand Chinese onto one rocket," said Moss, "and you could launch a rocket a week, it would still take hundreds of years just to transport ten percent of their population. It's not feasible. Even for the Chinese."
The Chinese were remaining traditionally tight lipped, but did accede that they will have a permanent base on Mars by 2020.
"It's been a kick up the ass for our administration," said Moss. "Obama originally said we'd be going to Mars until somebody showed him the bill. Now we're sending a couple of bots to asteroids that would come to us if we waited long enough."
With news that there will be over a thousand Chinese scientists on Mars by 2020, the Americans are reappraising their priorities again. "We know how they are doing it so cheap," said Moss. "It's a one-way ticket. No shortage of volunteers though. Our Health and Safety laws won't let us do that. We could easily get people to Mars now. Getting them back again is what costs the money."
The only message from the Chinese Space City, Dongfeng, that will be coordinating the launches, was rather cryptic.
"We aim to make it truly the Red Planet."