China Mars probe launch: Tianwen-1 Mars rover rockets away from Earth.
China aims to launch a rover to Mars on Thursday on a journey coinciding with a similar US mission as the powers take their rivalry into deep space.
The two countries are taking advantage of a period when Earth and Mars are closest to send their probes, with China’s mission due to lift off by Saturday and the US spacecraft on July 30.
It will be a crowded field. The United Arab Emirates launched a probe on Monday that will orbit Mars once it reaches the Red Planet.
But the race to watch is between the United States and China, which has worked furiously to try and match Washington’s supremacy in space.
The Chinese mission has been named Tianwen-1 (“Questions to Heaven”) in a nod to a classical poem that has verses about the cosmos.
It is expected to launch on a Long March 5 — China’s biggest space rocket — from the southern island of Hainan on Thursday, depending on the weather.
Tianwen-1 is expected to arrive in February 2021 after a seven-month, 55-million-kilometre voyage.
The mission includes a Mars orbiter, a lander and a rover that will study the planet’s soil.