China is launching its Mars mission today: landing on the Red Planet will be risky and complicated.
China is sending a spaceship to land on Mars for the first time. The launch of “Tianwen-1” from the Wenchang space station on the south Chinese island of Hainan is officially unconfirmed, but the police have issued special traffic restrictions around the site for Thursday. The news site “Red Star News” also announced a live broadcast from the launch of the rocket, which is due to start online on Thursday at 12 noon local time (6 a.m.CEST).
The spaceship consists of an orbiter, a landing device and a vehicle that is about the size of a small golf cart. No other space nation has tried to land a rover on their first Mars project like China. The name “Tianwen-1” can be freely translated as “Questions to Heaven” and is borrowed from an ancient Chinese poem. The spaceship is scheduled to reach Mars in February, but will only land months later.
The launch is eagerly awaited because the new, powerful “Long March 5” type missile is being used, and there were some failures in its development. The mission to Mars is also risky because the landing is considered to be particularly dangerous. Around half of all previous attempts by other nations have already gone wrong. The 240-kilogram rover is expected to explore the surface over 90 Mars days, about three months on Earth.
The first independent Chinese Mars probe is one of three flights to Mars this summer. The starting window results from Mars being closest to Earth between July and August. Such a constellation only occurs every two years. On Monday, the United Arab Emirates launched the first Arabian Mars probe into space with the help of a Japanese rocket, but it should not land.
Next, the US is planning to land on the “red planet” with “Perseverence”.
- Mars space travel: © NASA / Greg Shiral