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China launches ambitious attempt to land on Mars

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BEIJING: China launched its most ambitious mission on Mars on Thursday in a bold attempt to join the United States to successfully land a spacecraft on the red planet.
Tianwen-1 was launched on a Long carrier rocket March 5 from Hainan Island, a tourist province off the south coast of the mainland, state media said.
Live streams showed a successful takeoff, with bright orange rockets and the spacecraft heading upward through clear blue skies. Hundreds of space enthusiasts shouted enthusiastically on a beach across the bay from the launch site.
It marked the second flight to Mars this week, after an UAE orbiter took off on a rocket from Japan on Monday. And the United States is aiming to launch Perseverance, its most sophisticated Mars rover, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, next week.
It will take seven months for China’s tandem spacecraft, with an orbiter and rover, to reach Mars, like the others. If all goes well, Tianwen-1, or “Search for Heavenly Truth,” will search for groundwater, if present, as well as evidence of possible ancient life.
This is not China’s first attempt at Mars. In 2011, a Chinese orbiter accompanying a Russian mission was lost when the spacecraft was unable to leave Earth’s orbit after it was launched from Kazakhstan, and eventually burned up in the atmosphere.
This time, China is doing it alone. It is also fast, launching an orbiter and a rover on the same mission instead of chaining them.
China’s secret space program has developed rapidly in recent decades. Yang Liwei became the first Chinese astronaut in 2003, and last year Chang’e-4 became the first spacecraft in any country to land on the other side of the moon.
Conquering Mars would put China in an elite club.
“There is a lot of prestige in this,” said Dean Cheng, an expert on Chinese aerospace programs at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.
Landing on Mars is notoriously difficult. Only the US has successfully landed a spacecraft on Martian soil, doing so eight times since 1976. NASA’s InSight and Curiosity rovers are still operating today. Six other spacecraft are exploring Mars from orbit: three Americans, two Europeans, and one from India.
Unlike the other two Mars missions that will launch this month, China has strictly controlled information about the program, even withholding any names for its rover. National security concerns prompted the United States to curb cooperation between NASA and China’s space program.
In an article published earlier this month in Nature Astronomy, mission chief engineer Wan Weixing said that Tianwen-1 would orbit around Mars in February and search for a landing site on Utopia Planitia, a plain where NASA has Detected possible evidence of underground ice. Wan died in May of cancer.
Landing would be attempted in April or May, according to the article. If all goes well, the 240-kilogram (530-pound) solar powered rover the size of a golf cart is expected to run for about three months, and the orbiter for two years.
Although it’s small compared to the perseverance of 1,025 kilograms (2,260 pounds) the size of a United States car, it is almost twice as big as the two rovers that China sent to the moon in 2013 and 2019. Perseverance is expected operate for at least two years.
This Mars launch season, which occurs every 26 months when Earth and Mars are closest, is especially busy.
The UAE spacecraft, Amal, or Hope, which will orbit Mars but not land, is the first interplanetary mission in the Arab world. NASA’s Perseverance rover is as follows.
“At no other time in our history have we seen anything like what is unfolding with these three unique missions to Mars. Each of them is a marvel of science and engineering,” said executive director of the Thomas Space Foundation. Zelibor in an online discussion panel above. this week.
The road from China to Mars hit a few bumps: a March 5 long rocket, nicknamed “Fat 5” due to its bulky shape, failed to launch earlier this year. The coronavirus pandemic forced scientists to work from home. In March, when the instruments were to be transported from Beijing to Shanghai, three team members managed 12 hours to deliver them.
As China joins the US, Russia, and Europe in creating a global satellite-based navigation system, experts say it is not trying to overcome the US leadership in space exploration.
Instead, the Heritage Foundation’s Cheng said China is in a “slow race” with Japan and India to establish themselves as Asia’s space power.

Times of India

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