China’s Mars mission
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In November last year, China completed a key landing test for the 2020 Mars mission in Hebei province. (Picture: Reuters)

China’s 2020 Mars mission is going ahead despite the pandemic

The mission, on track for a July launch despite the Covid-19 pandemic, is named Heavenly Questions after the classical Chinese poem Tianwen

This article originally appeared on ABACUS

China’s Mars mission is moving ahead as planned despite disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. And now the mission has a name: Tianwen-1.

The China National Space Administration announced the name of the Mars probe mission on Friday. Tianwen, or Heavenly Questions, is a classical Chinese poem written around 300 BC by Qu Yuan, one of ancient China’s greatest poets. The poem, which raised questions about the sky and stars, has been described as “the written treasure of Chinese mythology.”

The unmanned Tianwen-1 Mars mission is scheduled to launch in July, coinciding with a window occurring every 26 months that allows for the minimal use of propellant. It will take up to seven months for the probe to reach the red planet.

The probe is expected to be launched by China’s Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket. The mission includes orbiting, landing and roving.

In November last year, China completed a key landing test for the 2020 Mars mission in Hebei province. (Picture: Reuters)
In its announcement, the CNSA also unveiled the official logo for the Mars mission, saying that all future planetary exploration missions will be named as part of the Tianwen series.
NASA is also expected to launch its Mars 2020 mission in July. But ExoMars, the Europe-Russia mission planned for this year, has been delayed until 2022 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In 2012, China’s first attempt to reach Mars flopped when the Yinghuo-1 Mars probe, carried by the Russian Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, disintegrated over the Pacific Ocean. The new mission planned for this year was unveiled in 2016. If successful, China will be the third country to land on Mars, after the United States and the Soviet Union.

China also had other missions planned for this year, but it’s not clear whether they have been affected by the pandemic. China planned to launch the Tianhe core module for its upcoming space station and the Chang'e 5 lunar probe, meant to bring Moon samples back to Earth.