China's first Mars-exploration space probe will be launched in early November of this year from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. If the launch is successful, China will be the fifth country to send a space probe to Mars following the U.S., Russia, the European Union and Japan.
The Chinese state media on Sunday quoted an official from the China Space Technology Research Institute as saying, "Through collaborative research, Chinese and Russian researchers decided to launch the space probe in early November of this year and the liftoff will go ahead as scheduled."
The Yinghuo 1 was originally scheduled for launch in October 2009, but the Russian side put the date back two years saying it wanted to reach a higher level of technological perfection. A new Zenit booster rocket, considered an improvement on the Soyuz, will be used in the mission. The Yinghuo 1 will be joined by the Russian probe Phobos-Grunt.
The Yinghuo 1 weighs 110 kg and measures 75 cm by 60 cm, but is equipped with eight state-of-the-art devices, including two high-resolution cameras, magnetic field detectors, ion probes and optical image producers. It will spend 10-11 months travelling before it enters the planet's orbit to monitor environment, solar waves and magnetic fields. It will also produce a vertical distribution chart of moisture and temperatures in the planet's atmosphere, according to Chinese media.
The probe, which has a two-year lifespan, has been designed to withstand the harsh environment of Mars, where the temperature differences between day and night are more than 100 degrees and the mercury can drop to -200 degrees Celsius at night.
China relies on Russian technology for the rocket to launch the Yinghuo 1 but plans to send a second version to Mars by 2013 using its own. It also plans to build a space station by 2020 and send an astronaut to the moon by 2025 to emerge as a rival to the U.S. and Russia in space exploration.
In 2008, China launched the Shenzhou 7 spacecraft and succeeded in its first-ever space walk. In October last year, it launched the lunar exploration probe Chang'e 2.