May 29, 2009

China to launch Mars space probe

China's first Mars probe has completed testing and is on target for launch, the Shanghai Academy of Space Flight Technology said Friday.

The Yinghuo-1 is to be launched later this year by a Russian carrier rocket and will go into orbit around Mars in 2010 after a 10-month, 236-million mile journey, Xinhua, China's state-run news agency, reported Friday.

Yinghuo -- Chinese for light from firefly -- is to study environmental changes in Mar's climate, including the disappearance of water from the planet, said Zhang Weiqiang, a spokesman for the academy. The probe is to conduct its research from orbit and is not designed to land.

The Yinghuo-1 project is to be China's first exploration of another planet.