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China's Mars explorer hitches ride with Russian spacecraft



This graphics shows the Yinghuo -1 and Mars. (File photo)

BEIJING, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) -- China`s Yinghuo-1 Mars orbiter was successfully launched on Wednesday morning from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, a Russian-leased launch site in Kazakhstan, Chinese authorities said.

The orbiter was launched by a Zenit-2SB rocket at 4:16 a.m. Wednesday, hitching a ride on Russia`s Phobos-Grunt (Phobos-Soil) spacecraft, which is an unmanned probe bound for Phobos, the larger of Mars` two moons, according to China`s State Administration for Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND).

The Phobos-Grunt and its Chinese passenger reached their scheduled orbit after the rocket disengaged with the Russian spacecraft, the SASTIND said.

As a small-sized research satellite, the Yinghuo-1 will detach from the the spacecraft and begin to orbit Mars in autumn of next year, when the Phobos-Grunt is scheduled to reach Mars.

The Yinghuo-1 was launched as part of an inter-governmental cooperative space exploration program between China and Russia. The satellite will orbit Mars for one year, collecting data on the planet`s magnetic field, ionosphere, landscape and gravitational field, according to the SASTIND.

The 115-kg Chinese probe, which is 75 cm long, 75 cm wide and 60 cm high, was designed for a two-year life. It will not land on Mars nor return to the Earth, expected to stay permanently in the space.

The Yinghuo-1`s launch follows last week`s successful launch of China`s Shenzhou-8, an unmanned spacecraft that docked later in the week with the Tiangong-1, a Chinese space lab module.

Wu Ping, a spokeswoman for China`s manned space program, said after the space docking that China would continue to seek out opportunities for international cooperation in space exploration.

Date:2011-11-9 17:45:30     
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