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Sunday, July 19, 2020
China moves rocket into place for upcoming Mars mission
BEIJING (AP) — China has moved a rocket into position to launch a rover to Mars in one of three upcoming missions to the red planet, one from the U.S. and another by the United Arab Emirates.
The Long March-5 carrier rocket is China’s heaviest-lift launch vehicle and has been used experimentally three times, but never with a payload. Dubbed Tianwen-1, China’s mission to Mars aims to land a rover to gather scientific data.
The rocket is due to blast off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in the southern island province of Hainan in late July or early August, according to state media reports Friday that quoted the China National Space Administration.
The mission is one of the most ambitious yet for China’s space program, which has advanced rapidly since launching its first crewed mission in 2003. Since then, it has sent astronauts to an experimental space station, begun work on a larger, more permanent facility and landed a probe on the less-explored far side of the moon.
This summer’s trio of missions in the most sweeping effort yet to seek signs of ancient microscopic life while scouting out Mars for future astronauts.
The timelines for such missions are daunting and the countries involved are striving to take best advantage of a one-month window in which Mars and Earth are in ideal alignment on the same side of the sun, minimizing travel time and fuel use. Such a window opens only once every 26 months.
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