Science

China Launches Ambitious Mission To Mars

China Launches Ambitious Mission To Mars”

"The #UAESpaceAgency congratulates the Chinese National Space Administration #CNSA, on the successful launch of China's first Mars exploration mission, #Tianwen-1 lifted off by a Long March 5 rocket".

China successfully launched its first independent mission to Mars, dubbed Tianwen-1, from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre in Hainan Province on Thursday.

On Thursday afternoon, China launched a 57 meter Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in eastern Hainan, a large island in the South China Sea, according to the Associated Press.

The spacecraft is expected to reach Mars around February 2021 and begin its scientific observation phase in April 2021. Within the next few weeks, the US - which has more than 20 successful missions since its first attempt to reach Mars in 1964, will also launch another mission to the red planet, called Mars 2020, carrying its latest rover, Perseverance.

This is a major effort not just for China, but also for extra-terrestrial planetary exploration in general, because it includes the combination effort of both the lander and rover in one combined mission, with the plan to deploy the rover on land and have it communicate with the orbiter as it makes its way around Mars all in one trip.

The US, meanwhile, will launch its sophisticated Mars rover, Perseverance from Florida next week. The rocket carried a 5.5-ton bundle of spacecraft created to execute an ambitious mission called Tianwen-1, which translates to "questions to heaven". We'll update this post if we hear more.

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The UAE's Mars mission was the first of three missions scheduled to head to the red planet this summer, with China being the second. But that mission, Yinghuo-1, failed to leave the Earth's orbit and later broke up over the Pacific Ocean. The solar-powered, six-wheeled vehicle will use ground-penetrating radar to study Mars' internal structure and look for pockets of water ice, according to state media.

An illustration of Tianwen-1's rover leaving a lander to explore the Martian surface.

- Nasa has already sent 4 Martian rovers to the Red Planet, having learned crucial lessons from the Curiosity rover that landed on the planet's surface in 2012 and continues to traverse a Martian plain southeast of 250-metre-deep Jezero Crater, once thought to have been a lake the size of Lake Tahoe. Its atmosphere is thick enough to burn up a spacecraft, yet too thin to completely slow down a mission during reentry (as can happen on Earth).

The next challenge is for the probe to be "still working when it gets to Mars and survives entry and landing", said Dr. Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

If the Tianwen-1's lander and rover spacecraft successfully touch down, the mission would make China only the third nation to explore the Martian surface, along with the United States and Russian Federation. In 2016, a European space probe was destroyed on impact when it attempted a surface landing.



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