China Launches Mars Probe in Space Race With US

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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 profiting from a interval when Earth and Mars are favourably aligned for a brief journey, with the US spacecraft as a consequence of carry 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 staff cheered on the launch website on the southern island of Hainan because it lifted off into blue sky aboard a Long March 5 — China’s greatest house rocket.

“We carry out this first Mars exploration mission to peacefully use the universe and to explore its mysteries. It’s for this purpose. It’s not to launch a competition with any other country,” Liu Tongjie, spokesman for China’s first Mars exploration mission, instructed reporters.

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

The five-tonne Tianwen-1 will arrive within the Red Planet’s orbit in February 2021 after a seven-month, 55 million-kilometre (34 million-mile) voyage, and deploy the rover to Mars three months later in May.

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 observe is between the United States and China, which has labored furiously to try to match Washington’s supremacy in house.

“With today’s launch, China is on its way to join the community of international scientific explorers at Mars,” NASA chief Jim Bridenstine mentioned on Twitter. “Safe travels Tianwen-1!”



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 historic microbial life, and collect rock and soil samples with the purpose of bringing them again to Earth on one other mission in 2031.

Liu mentioned each the Tianwen orbiter and rover will relay Mars information again to Earth, together with on its morphology and geological construction, water ice distribution, local weather data, and inside construction.

“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.

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 paved the way 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 impartial analyst at GoTaikonauts, which specialises in China’s house programme.

China has made big strides up to now decade, sending a human into house in 2003.

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

China has already despatched two rovers to the Moon. With the second, China turned the primary nation to make a profitable mushy touchdown on the far facet.

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

The a lot larger 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 larger threat of failure.

The majority of the handfuls of missions despatched by the US, Russia, Europe, Japan and India to Mars since 1960 resulted 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 making an attempt 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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