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China moves rocket in place to launch rover in first

China Starts First Mars Mission Next Week

BEIJING – China has moved a rocket into a position to launch a rover to Mars next week on one of three missions close to the red planet, with one from the US and one from the United Arab Emirates.
The Long March-5 carrier rocket is the most substantial launch vehicle in China and has been experimentally launched three times, but never with a payload. Nicknamed Tianwen-1, China’s first mission to Mars aims to land a rover to collect scientific data.
The rocket will be launched from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in southern Hainan Island province on or around July 23, according to state media reports Friday that they quoted the China National Space Administration as saying.
The mission is one of the most ambitious for China’s space program, which has advanced rapidly since the launch of its first human-crewed mission in 2003.
Since then, it has sent astronauts to an experimental space station, started work on a more extensive permanent facility and landed a probe on the least explored side of the moon.
This summer’s trio of missions is the broadest effort to search for signs of ancient, microscopic life while searching for Mars in search of future astronauts.
The timelines for such missions are daunting, and the countries involved strive to make the most of a one-month window in which Mars and Earth are in ideal alignment on the same side of the sun, minimizing travel time and fuel usage.
This window is opened only once every 26 months.
Preparations also had to continue amid the coronavirus outbreak, which in part led Europe and Russia to abandon their plans to send a rover in search of life to Mars this summer.
Each spacecraft will travel more than 480 million km (300 million miles) before reaching Mars next February. In the process, they will loop out beyond Earth’s orbit and synchronize with Mars’ most distant orbit around the sun.
The United States is sending a car-sized six-wheeled rover called Perseverance to collect rock samples that will be returned to Earth for analysis in about a decade. Its release date was set between July 30 and August 15.
The UAE spacecraft, called Amal, or “Hope” in Arabic, is an orbiter built in collaboration with the University of Colorado Boulder and is now slated to launch from Japan on Monday. It will be the first interplanetary mission in the Arab world.
Scientists want to know what Mars was like billions of years ago when it had water sources that could have supported small life forms before becoming the frozen world that it is today.
So far, the US has been the only country to successfully place a spacecraft on Mars, doing so eight times. Two NASA landers are operating there, InSight and Curiosity.
Six other spacecraft are exploring the planet from orbit: three Americans, two Europeans, and one from India.
China’s last attempt at a mission to Mars in collaboration with Russia failed in 2011. The close military connections of the Chinese space program and the relative secrecy within which it operates have limited its opportunities for cooperation with those of the United States and others.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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