China launches first probe to Mars

Tianwen-1 took off on Thursday aboard a Long March 5 rocket. Arrival scheduled for February 2021.

A crowd watched the launch of the Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang Space Shooting Center on Hainan Island on Thursday.
A crowd watched the launch of the Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang Space Shooting Center on Hainan Island on Thursday. STR / AFP

The rumor was therefore true: China launched its first Martian mission on Thursday morning. As with the last Chang’e missions to the Moon, the country is carrying out its ambitious space program with a strange mixture of pride and secrecy: for a reason that eludes many specialized observers, the Chinese space agency (CNSA) communicates very little on its exploration programs. “They could quite do it without revealing anything very strategic ”, is surprised Francis Rocard, head of solar system exploration programs at Cnes, the French space agency. The Soviets have long adopted the same strategy, in part to cover up their technology shortcomings or failures. However, the Chinese launch would not have gone unnoticed: the European Space Agency (ESA), for example, makes its network of antennas available for monitoring the vessel.

The most powerful of Chinese launchers

It weighs more than 5 tonnes with its propellants. It is the most powerful launcher

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