China launches ambitious attempt to land rover on Mars

China is setting the stage for next space race

Engines blazing orange, a Long March-5 carrier rocket took off under clear skies around 12:40 p.m. from Hainan Island, south of China's mainland.

NASA is sending its Perseverance rover to collect samples, search for signs of past microbial life and even unleash an experimental helicopter.Perseverance is scheduled to launch on July 17, 2020, kicking off a months-long journey through space before arriving at the red planet in February 2021.

China's rover will be active for roughly 92 Earth days (90 Martian days), according to Chinese news outlet Sixth Tone, and information from the rover will be relayed to Earth via the orbiter, which should be in commission for at least one Martian year (687 Earth days).

If Tianwen-1 is successful, China will become only the third country to land a spacecraft on Mars, after the US and the Soviet Union.

The spacecraft will travel for about seven months until it reaches Mars.

Besides, it must have good orbital maneuverability to ensure it will be captured by Mars' gravitational field, Pang said.

Liu Tongjie, spokesman for the mission, said in a press briefing that the launch was a "key step of China marching towards farther deep space".

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

The UAE Space Agency also separately tweeted its congratulations following the launch and said it was "excited to be exploring Mars alongside this nation".

China will not be the only nation attempting the feat.

"Scientifically, Tianwen-1 is the most comprehensive mission to investigate the Martian morphology, geology, mineralogy, space environment, and soil and water-ice distribution", Weixing claimed in the piece.

Once the probe reaches Mars, the major challenges will just begin to appear. That's partly because Mars is one of the most hard planets to land on.

Next up, the United States is set to launch its Perseverance rover to our neighboring planet July 30 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

An illustration of China's Tianwen-1 mission, also called HX-1 and the Mars Global Remote Sensing Orbiter and Small Rover.

As for how soon we can expect to see humans on the Red Planet, Logsdon said that "depends on whether you believe Elon Musk or not". "I'm highly skeptical. There's a lot of difference between the first explorers going to Mars and tourism". The orbiter, weighing around 240 kg, will use high-resolution cameras to look for suitable landing spots in the Utopia Planitia region of Mars. NASA's Perseverance rover is up next.

While China is joining the US, Russia and Europe in creating a satellite-based global navigation system, experts say it isn't trying to overtake the US lead in space exploration. One such NASA-affiliated observatory spotted the recently-launched Chinese Mars mission and shared its bright images on Twitter.



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