China is one step closer to launching its Tianwen-1 Mars mission as the rocket that will send the mission into space now sits on the launch pad. Chinese mission planners are using a launch pad at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in the Hainan Province in southern China. The rocket the mission will use to reach orbit is a Long March-5.
Currently, mission planners intend to launch in late July or early August. While China hasn’t confirmed its target launch date, speculation is that the liftoff is slated for July 23. That day is the opening of the launch window for the mission.
The Long March-5 rocket’s trip to the launchpad took about two hours, and the launch team is conducting final tests on the rocket before liftoff. Interestingly, while the Long March-5 has had multiple experimental launches, sending the Tianwen-1 mission into orbit will mark its operational debut. The launch will also mark the first time that the rocket sends an object into the Earth-Mars transfer orbit.
For those unfamiliar with the Tianwen-1 mission, it’s an ambitious project that wants to complete orbiting, landing, and roving in a single mission. China hopes to gather scientific data as it explores the surface of Mars. Mission planners have stated that preparations are currently focused on filling the rocket with fuel and ensuring that the rocket is ready for launch, and the rover is ready for its mission.
Chinese authorities have said that the mission is the first step of the country’s planetary exploration project. China has also said that it has had the support of the international community. The mission is notable for using one rocket to simultaneously carry the Mars orbiter, lander, and rover into space. The mission will be the first of its kind ever undertaken globally.