China launches its first unmanned mission to Mars
Beijing : China on Thursday launched its first unmanned probe to Mars successfully, in a display of its technological prowess and ambition to join an elite club of space-faring nations.
China's largest carrier rocket, the Long March 5 Y-4, blasted off with the probe at 12:41 p.m. from Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the southern island of Hainan.
In the current year 2020, Mars is at the closest distance from the Earth, at around 55 million km (34 million miles). This happens for a month in every 26 months.
The probe is expected to reach Mars in February where it will try to land in Utopia Planitia, a plain in the northern hemisphere, and deploy a rover to explore for 90 days.
If the mission goes successful then Tianwen-1, or "Questions to Heaven", the name of a poem written two millennia ago, will make China the first country to orbit, land and deploy a rover in its inaugural mission.
More than 50 missions to Mars have failed since 1960. Only limited missions attempted to land on the Red Planet.
Challenges multiply for those attempting a landing - from ensuring a precise deceleration of the spacecraft to navigating the planet's sometimes violent atmosphere.
"The mission must necessarily be challenging, and not be following in the footsteps of others completely," Liu Tongjie, mission spokesman, told Reuters after the launch in an interview.
"This is an exploration project, so there will be no 100% assurance of success. If the mission is unsuccessful, or if there are problems, we will continue to push ahead, re-establish the project, and re-commit."
Eight spacecraft - American, European and Indian - are currently either orbiting Mars or on its surface, with other missions underway or planned.
The United Arab Emirates launched a $200 million mission to Mars on Monday, an orbiter that will study the planet's atmosphere.
The China has not mentioned about the total cost attached with their Mars Mission.