China launches its first space mission to Mars

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China launched an unmanned probe to Mars in a mission named Tiaonwen 1 on Thursday, in its first independent mission to visit another planet, in an attempt to take the lead in space and show its technological capabilities.

At 12:41 local time (0441 GMT), a Long March 5 Y4 rocket blasted, carrying the probe from the launch center in Wenchang, Hainan Province, in the south of the country.

It is expected that the authorities will confirm in the coming hours whether the launch was successful, and China hopes that through this step, in particular, the delivery of a robot in charge of analyzing the soil of the Red Planet.

China hopes to achieve in this first independent attempt, what the United States has accomplished nearly in several years of missions to Mars since the 1960s.

The mission of "Tiaonwen 1" or "Questions to Heaven 1" will carry a 3-component vehicle: a red probe that will orbit the Red Planet, a landing craft, and a proprietary robot to analyze the soil of Mars.

If the mission succeeds, this launch will boost Beijing's standing in its confrontation with Washington, which has just ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, in the latest chapters of intense competition between the two countries.

China's move comes 3 days after the UAE launched the "probe of hope" to Mars, while the United States intends to launch "March 2020" on July 30 to the same planet.

These countries take advantage of the relatively short distance now between Earth and Mars, which amounts to about 55 million km, which is equivalent to nearly 5,000 round-trip flights between Paris and New York.

China has long remained far from fierce competition between the United States and the former Soviet Union in space during World War II, but it is seeking to make up for its underdevelopment now.