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China to launch first Mars probe this year

China's first Mars probe, expected to be launched in the second half of this year, hopes to discover why water disappeared from the planet.

tech reviews Updated: May 29, 2009 16:28 IST

China's first Mars probe, expected to be launched in the second half of this year, hopes to discover why water disappeared from the planet.

The probe, named 'Yinghuo-1' has passed tests at the research phase, Zhang Weiqiang, an official of the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST) said.

It will be launched using a Russian carrier rocket, accompanied by the Russian aerocraft Phobos-Grunt.

Yinghuo-1 would go into Mars orbit in 2010 after a 10- month, 380-million-kilometre journey, Zhang said. But unlike the Russian craft, Yinghuo-1 will not land but would only orbit and observe, Zhang was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.

The Chinese probe weighs 115 kilogrammes and has a two- year life-span. "Yinghuo" means light from firefly in Chinese.

The probe is expected to discover why water disappeared from Mars and explain other environmental changes of the planet, Zhang said.

The Mars probe is China's third major space exploration plan after the manned space project and the moon exploration programme. It was also the first time that China would explore another planet, Zhang said.

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