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China set to launch maiden Mars probe in Nov


An artistic illustration of Yinghuo-1 micro-satellite.

BEIJING (BNS): China is preparing to send its first Mars probe into orbit when Russia launches its Phobos-Grunt interplanetary mission next month.

The 110 kg micro-satellite, Yinghuo-1, will be launched between November 8 and November 20 from the Baikanour cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the China Daily reported Friday.

The Mars orbiter and the unmanned Phobos-Grunt lander arrived at the Baikanour cosmodrome on October 17.

The Mars probe was originally planned to blast off along with Phobos-Grunt - Russia's first interplanetary spacecraft - in October 2009, but the launch was postponed "to enhance the reliability of the project."

The probe is expected to enter a preset orbit around Mars between August and September 2012, Wu Ji, director of National Space Science Center under the Chinese Academy of Sciences was quoted as saying by China Daily.

The mini-satellite's scientific goals include exploring Mars' space environment, and relaying back the first images of Mars taken by a Chinese satellite, it said.

If successful, the mission will take China further into deep space exploration programme. The country has already begun probing the Moon with the successful launch of two lunar spacecraft and is planning to send another in 2013.

Russia is sending the Phobos Grunt spacecraft to probe Phobos - one of the moons of Mars. The spacecraft is expected to return to Earth after collecting rock and soil samples from the Martian moon three years later.

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China  Mars  spacecraft  

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