Beijing, Jul 23 (efe-epa).- China successfully launched its first probe to Mars Thursday, with the goal to explore the red planet’s surface.
The launch took place at 12:41 local time (04:41 GMT) on the Long March 5-Y4 transport rocket from the Wenchang space center in the Chinese island province of Hainan, located in the south of the country.
The unmanned probe with a rover is expected to reach the red planet in February after a “six to seven month” trip, according to state broadcaster CGTN. Reports say it is not expected to land until two to three months later.
China’s first exploration mission – called Tianwen-1 – aims to orbit Mars and after assessment of atmospheric conditions, land on the planet and deploy a rover to explore the surface, obtaining scientific data.
The exploration is expected to take 90 Martian days, or sols, roughly 40 minutes longer than an Earth day.
The mission’s name comes from the poem “Tianwen” (Questions to Heaven) written by Qu Yuan (around 340 BC to 278 BC), one of the greatest poets of ancient China, according to the state agency Xinhua.
All of China’s planetary exploration missions in the future will be named in the Tianwen series.
If successful, this mission would become the first such one to orbit, land and deploy a rover on Mars on the first try.
Tianwen-1 is one of three Mars missions that come in quick succession, with the United Arab Emirates launching its Hope satellite on Monday, while next week NASA is expected to deploy its next-generation rover, Perseverance.
Last year, China began conducting experiments to prepare for the probe’s descent and landing, the success of which would be an “unprecedented achievement,” the China National Space Administration said at the time.
Landing is the biggest challenge the mission will face, expert Bao Weimin of the Chinese Academy of Sciences recently told Xinhua, and will consist of a four-stage process lasting seven to eight minutes in total.
The launch is part of the country’s plans to advance the space race, and comes after the China became the first to land on the far side of the moon in January 2019. EFE-EPA