May 28, 2009

China’s Mars Probe To Utilize Russian Rocket

China will launch a Mars probe atop a Russian rocket later this year, according to a report by the China's official Xinhua news agency on Thursday.

Yinghuo-1, or Firefly Light-1, passed a critical test, the report quoted Zhang Weiqiang, deputy secretary of the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, as saying.

The 253 lb. probe has an expected life of two years, and would orbit the red planet in 2010 after completing a 10-month, 240-million-mile journey, Zhang added.

Although the probe won't land on Mars, it will orbit and monitor the planet, he explained.

Earlier this year, a Chinese probe completed its 16-month mission with a scheduled crash on to the moon's surface, the initial step in China's plans to land a vehicle on the moon in 2012.

Last year, China launched its third manned mission into space, which included its first spacewalk.  Ultimately, the nation plans to put astronauts on the moon, although it has not announced any firm timelines for such a mission.