China Mars probe set for November launch

Yinghuo-1, marks China`s first attempt at deep space exploration after sending a probe to the moon.

Updated: Feb 21, 2011, 18:41 PM IST

Shanghai: China`s first Mars probe will be launched from a Russian rocket in November, two years later than originally planned, state media reported Monday.

China`s Mars explorer, Yinghuo-1, marks the country`s first attempt at deep space exploration after sending a probe to the moon, the state-run China Daily reported, citing comments from a China Academy of Space Technology official.

The 110-kilogram (240-pound) micro-satellite was originally due to blast off in October 2009 with Russia`s "Phobos Explorer" from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan but the launch was postponed, according to previous reports.

The orbiter is due to probe the Martian space environment with a special focus on what happened to the water that appears to have once been abundant on the planet`s surface, previous reports said.

China is aiming to build a space exploration programme on par with those of the United States and Russia.

It currently has a probe -- the Chang`e 2 -- orbiting the moon and carrying out various tests in preparation for the expected 2013 launch of the Chang`e-3, which it hopes will be its first unmanned lunar landing.

It became the world`s third nation to put a man in space independently -- after the Soviet Union and the United States -- when Yang Liwei piloted the one-man Shenzhou-5 space mission in 2003.

China`s Wang Yue is currently participating in a simulation of a mission to Mars in Russia, where astronauts have spent eight months in a space capsule cut off from the world.

Bureau report