China successfully launches first mission to mars

Tianwen-1 probe is expected to reach Mars in February, when it will attempt to deploy a rover to explore the planet for 90 days.

China successfully launched its first Mars probe, named Tianwen-1, via a Long March-5 Y4 carrier rocket from Wenchang Space Launch Center in South China’s Hainan Province into planned orbit on Thursday.

If successful, the latest mission, also known as Tianwen-1, or “Questions to Heaven” – a Chinese poem penned two millennia ago – will make China the first country to orbit, land and deploy a rover in its inaugural mission.

The shuttle will join eight other countries including Indian and the USA as they orbit Mars or have deployed rovers onto the planet’s surface.

According to the CNSA, the project is set to achieve a series of technological advances, including Mars orbit insertion, long-term automatic probe management, long distance communication and Mars surface roving capabilities.

The interplanetary mission will also mark China’s establishment of a complete deep-space exploration project system, covering design, production, flight mission and scientific research.

“This is a really ambitious mission driven by science that represents significant progress in China’s space programme, and they should be proud,” says David Flannery, an astrobiologist at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane.

“There are a lot of other things that could still go wrong, but so far so good,” he says.

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