Google+ Mars Travel: China's First Mars Probe Set for October Launch

China's First Mars Probe Set for October Launch

China's first Mars probe is on course to launch in October of this year. Yinghuo-1 (萤火一号) is a joint operation with Russia and will search for the causes behind the disappearance of water on Mars.

There is substantial evidence that water was once abundant on Mars (see below), but the precise reason for its disappearance has until now only been speculation.
Evidence of Water in Ravi Vallis
Areas where evidence for water is found
 in the form of outflow channels

Outflow channels, like this one seen in Ares Vallis are seen
as evidence that water once flowed on the Martian surface.

China National Space Administration's (CNSA) Yinghuo-1 will launch with the Russian Phobos-Grunt, which is set to explore the Martian moon, Phobos. The flight will last between 10-11.5 months, at which point Yinghuo-1 will separate from Phobos-Grunt and enter into a 72.8 day equatorial orbit. 

The primary objectives of Yinghuo-1 are to:
  • Investigate Mars' plasma environment and magnetic field.
  • Study the Martian ion escape processes and possible mechanisms
  • Observe sandstorms

The Chinese probe was originally supposed to launch in October of 2009 with Russia's Phobos Explorer, but had to be pushed back to October of this year. Yinghuo-1 will be China's first attempt at Mars travel after sending two orbiters to the Moon.

China is doing it's best to compete with the much more experienced Russian and American space programs, so we can be sure that there will be many further attempts at space exploration by the CNSA in the next few years.


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