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China launches Mars probe in space race with US

China Launches Mars Probe in the Space Race with the U.S.

BEIJING – China launched a rover to Mars on July 23, a trip that coincides with a similar U.S. mission, as the powers carry their rivalry into deep space.
The two countries are taking advantage of a period when Earth and Mars are favorably aligned for a short trip, and the U.S. spacecraft will take off on July 30.
The Chinese mission is called Tianwen-1 (“Questions to Heaven”), a nod to a classic poem that has verses about the cosmos.
Engineers and other employees cheered at the launch site on the southern island of Hainan as it took off into the blue sky aboard a Long March 5, China’s most massive space rocket.
Site commander Zhang Xueyu stated that the mission was a success on the state-owned CCTV network.
The five-ton Tianwen-1 is expected to arrive in February 2021 after a seven-month, 55 million-kilometer (34 million-mile) journey.
The mission includes a Mars orbiter, a lander, and a scout vehicle that will study the planet’s soil.
“As a first attempt for China, I do not expect it to do anything significant beyond what the United States has already done,” he said.
After seeing the United States and the Soviet Union lead the way during the Cold War, China has invested billions of dollars into its military-led space program.
“The incorporation of China (the Mars race) will change the US-dominated situation for half a century,” said Chen Lan, an independent analyst at GoTaikonauts.com, which specializes in China’s space program.
China has made great strides in the past decade, sending a human into space in 2003.
The Asian power has laid the groundwork to assemble a space station in 2022 and gain a permanent foothold in Earth’s orbit.
China has already sent two rovers to the Moon. With the second, China became the first country to make a successful soft landing at the other extreme.
Moon missions gave China experience in operating spaceships beyond Earth orbit, but Mars is another story.
China has upgraded its monitoring stations in the western Xinjiang region and northeast Heilongjiang province to meet the requirements of the mission to Mars, the state news agency Xinhua reported last week.
Most of the dozens of missions sent by the U.S., Russia, Europe, Japan, and India to Mars since 1960 failed.
Tianwen-1 is not China’s first attempt to go to Mars.
A previous mission with Russia in 2011 ended prematurely as the launch failed.
Now Beijing is trying it alone.
“As long as (Tianwen) safely lands on the Martian surface and submits the first image, the mission … will be a great success,” Chen said.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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