China Launches Mars Probe in Space Race With US

China Launches Mars Probe in Space Race With US

China launched a rover to Mars on Thursday, a journey coinciding with an analogous US mission because the powers take their rivalry into deep house.

The two nations are making the most of a interval when Earth and Mars are favourably aligned for a brief journey, with the US spacecraft due to lift off on July 30.

The Chinese mission is called Tianwen-1 (“Questions to Heaven”) — a nod to a classical poem that has verses in regards to the cosmos.

Engineers and different workers cheered on the launch web site on the southern island of Hainan because it lifted off into blue sky aboard a Long March 5 — China’s greatest house rocket.

Site commander Zhang Xueyu declared the mission successful on state broadcaster CCTV.

The five-tonne Tianwen-1 is anticipated to reach in February 2021 after a seven-month, 55-million-kilometre (34-million-mile) voyage.

The mission features a Mars orbiter, a lander, and a rover that can examine the planet’s soil.

“As a first try for China, I don’t expect it to do anything significant beyond what the US has already done,” mentioned Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer on the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

It is a crowded discipline. The United Arab Emirates launched a probe on Monday that can orbit Mars as soon as it reaches the Red Planet.

But the race to look at is between the United States and China, which has labored furiously to attempt to match Washington’s supremacy in house.

NASA, the American house company, has already despatched 4 rovers to Mars for the reason that late 1990s.

The subsequent one, Perseverance, is an SUV-sized car that can search for indicators of historical microbial life, and collect rock and soil samples with the objective of bringing them again to Earth on one other mission in 2031.

Tianwen-1 is “broadly comparable to Viking in its scope and ambition”, mentioned McDowell, referring to NASA’s Mars touchdown missions in 1975-1976.

Catching up

After watching the United States and the Soviet Union prepared the ground in the course of the Cold War, China has poured billions of {dollars} into its military-led house programme.

“China joining (the Mars race) will change the situation dominated by the US for half a century,” mentioned Chen Lan, an unbiased analyst at GoTaikonauts.com, which specialises in China’s house programme.

China has made enormous strides in the previous decade, sending a human into house in 2003.

The Asian powerhouse has laid the groundwork to assemble an area station by 2022 and achieve a everlasting foothold in Earth orbit.

China has already despatched two rovers to the Moon. With the second, China grew to become the primary nation to make a successful soft landing on the far aspect.

The Moon missions gave China expertise in working spacecraft past Earth orbit, however Mars is one other story.

The a lot better distance means “a bigger light travel time, so you have to do things more slowly as the radio signal round trip time is large,” mentioned McDowell.

It additionally means “you need a more sensitive ground station on Earth because the signals will be much fainter,” he added, noting that there’s a better danger of failure.

China has upgraded its monitoring stations in the far-western Xinjiang area and northeastern Heilongjiang province to fulfill the Mars mission necessities, state information company Xinhua reported final week.

The majority of the handfuls of missions despatched by the US, Russia, Europe, Japan, and India to Mars since 1960 ended in failure.

Tianwen-1 is just not China’s first try to go to Mars.

A earlier mission with Russia in 2011 ended prematurely because the launch failed.

Now, Beijing is attempting by itself.

“As long as (Tianwen) safely lands on the Martian surface and sends back the first image, the mission will… be a big success,” Chen mentioned.

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