China launches first Mars mission
Beijing, July 23: China successfully launched its first Mars probe on Thursday from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in the southern island province of Hainan, official media here reported.
About 36 minutes after the Mars probe was launched, the spacecraft, including an orbiter and a rover, was sent into the Earth-Mars transfer orbit, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA).
The Chinese Mars probe named Tianwen 1, or Quest for Heavenly Truth 1, will fulfil three scientific objectives: orbiting the red planet for comprehensive observation, landing on Martian soil and sending a rover to roam the landing site.
It will conduct scientific investigations into the planet''s soil, geological structure, environment, atmosphere and water, media reports said. The Long March 5 rocket, the nation''s biggest and most powerful, will transport the robotic probe to the Earth-Mars transfer trajectory before the spacecraft begins its self-propelled flight toward Mars'' gravity field.
According to China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, a State-owned space conglomerate, the probe will travel for about seven months before it reaches Mars, which at the farthest point of its orbit is about 400 million kilometres from Earth and 55 million kilometres at the nearest point.
It said the probe consists of three parts － the orbiter, the lander and the rover －and they will separate in Mars orbit. The orbiter will remain in the orbit for scientific operations and to relay signals while the lander-rover combination makes an autonomous descent and landing.