China launches Tianwen-1 toward Mars

Tianwen-1 launchChina launches the uncrewed Tianwen-1 space probe atop a Long March 5 rocket from the launch facilities in Wenchang. Intended to achieve orbit around Mars in February 2021, the spacecraft includes an orbiter and a lander/rover; the orbiter will look for suitable landing sites for the lander/rover combo, which is not expected to be dropped off until April 2021. The rover has soil gathering and analysis capabilities, while the orbiter has ground-penetrating radar. Tianwen-1 is intended to take up the unfulfilled mission objectives of the Yinghuo-1 orbiter, which was launched as a payload on Russia’s failed Fobos-Grunt mission in 2011 (which fell back into Earth’s atmosphere).