China launched Thursday from the Wenchang center in Hainan province an uninhabited probe bound for Mars with the objective of demonstrating its technological mastery. The second largest economic power in the world aims to become a reference in space.
The probe, which will be transported by a Long March 5 rocket, should reach the Red Planet next February, according to forecasts by the Chinese space administration, and will attempt to deploy a rover there to explore the planet for 90 days.
The mission was called
Questions to Heaven ), a name taken from a poem written two millennia ago by Qu Yuan in which he raised questions about the stars and other celestial bodies.
If successful, China would become the first country to successfully land and deploy a rover on its inaugural mission.
Eight craft – launched by the United States, Europe and India – are in orbit around or on Mars, and more missions are in the pipeline.
China once partnered with Russia to send a robot to Mars in 2011, but the Russian-made rocket carrying the probe failed to leave Earth orbit.