Science

UAE space officials congratulate China on launch of its Mars probe

UAE space officials congratulate China on launch of its Mars probe”

"It's not to launch a competition with any other country", Liu Tongjie, spokesman for China's first Mars exploration mission, told reporters. It will then orbit the red planet for two to three months before attempting a landing.

If the journey is successful, China will be the first country to orbit, land and deploy a rover in its inaugural mission. It features an orbiter, a lander and a rover.

The launch was "gutsy", said Dr. Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. All three missions are scheduled to reach Mars in February 2021.

"As with our Hope Probe and the Tianwen-1 mission, we are happy to collaborate with like-minded nations and the space community across the globe to cohesively work and contribute to exploring the Red Planet and fulfilling our scientific objectives, with the ultimate goal of seeking a better future for mankind", said Dr Al Falasi, who is also Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium Enterprises. China has also sent two rovers to the Moon, with the second landing on the far side.

Landing on Mars is notoriously hard. "I'm highly skeptical. There's a lot of difference between the first explorers going to Mars and tourism".

- 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. The orbiter, weighing around 240 kg, will use high-resolution cameras to look for suitable landing spots in the Utopia Planitia region of Mars. "There are still many uncertainties about the environment and great risks", said Geng.

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Though small compared to America's hulking, car-sized 1,025-kilogram (2,260-pound) Perseverance, it's nearly twice as big as the two rovers China has sent to the moon in 2013 and 2019.

Perseverance is expected to touch down on Mars on February 18, 2021. This orbit can only appear once every 26 months, and the most recent formation time is the summer of 2020.

Built-in NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Southern California, Perseverance measures around 3 metres in length and weighs more than a tonne, making it the largest and heaviest robotic Mars rover NASA has built.

It is a risky endeavour, previous Mars missions by other nations have had a success rate of about 50 per cent. "Each of them is a science and engineering marvel", the Space Foundation's chief executive officer Thomas Zelibor said in an online panel discussion earlier this week.

But given Musk's recent closeness to China, it's unclear if he'd ever consider launching from that country instead of the US, something that would be a huge blow to American prestige in space.

Instead, Cheng of the Heritage Foundation said China is in a "slow race" with Japan and India to establish itself as Asia's space power.



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