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China has joined the ranks of the Mars-exploring nations.

The nation’s first fully homegrown Mars mission, Tianwen-1, arrived in orbit around the Red Planet today (Feb. 10), according to Chinese media reports.

The milestone makes China the sixth entity to get a probe to Mars, joining the United States, the Soviet Union, the European Space Agency, India and the United Arab Emirates, whose Hope orbiter made it to the Red Planet just yesterday (Feb. 9).

An ambitious mission

China took its first crack at Mars back in November 2011, with an orbiter called Yinghuo-1 that launched with Russia’s Phobos-Grunt sample-return mission. But Phobos-Grunt never made it out of Earth orbit, and Yinghuo-1 crashed and burned with the Russian probe and another tagalong, the Planetary Society’s Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment.

Tianwen-1 (which means “Questioning the Heavens”) is a big step up from Yinghuo-1, however. For starters, this current mission is an entirely China-led affair; it was developed by the China National Space Administration (with some international collaboration) and launched atop a Chinese Long March 5 rocket on July 23, 2020.

China took its first crack at Mars back in November 2011, with an orbiter called Yinghuo-1 that launched with Russia’s Phobos-Grunt sample-return mission. But Phobos-Grunt never made it out of Earth orbit, and Yinghuo-1 crashed and burned with the Russian probe and another tagalong, the Planetary Society’s Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment.

Tianwen-1 (which means “Questioning the Heavens”) is a big step up from Yinghuo-1, however. For starters, this current mission is an entirely China-led affair; it was developed by the China National Space Administration (with some international collaboration) and launched atop a Chinese Long March 5 rocket on July 23, 2020.

Source: space.com, Photo: NASA

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