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A time-lapse of Martian weather in 2018. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

China's latest mission to Mars, which includes a lander, rover and orbiter, launched to the Red Planet Thursday.

Why it matters: If the mission is successful, China will become only the second nation after the U.S. to operate a rover on the surface of Mars.

  • The mission is the second of three bound for Mars expected to launch this month.
  • The United Arab Emirates already launched its Hope orbiter and NASA is planning to launch its Perseverance rover on July 30.

Details: China's mission, called Tianwen-1, is designed to conduct extensive geological research and mapping of the Red Planet, according to an article written by people involved in the mission published in Nature Astronomy last week.

  • "Scientifically, Tianwen-1 is the most comprehensive mission to investigate the Martian morphology, geology, mineralogy, space environment, and soil and water-ice distribution," the article says.
  • The mission is carrying 13 scientific instruments in total, with seven on the orbiter and another six aboard the rover — all aimed at getting a complete picture of what's happening on the Red Planet today.

The big picture: For China, this mission is a point of national pride and a show of strength that would prove the country's significant investment in space has paid off in a major way.

  • The country's 2011 Mars mission launched with Russia didn't make it out of low-Earth orbit.

What's next: Tianwen-1 is expected to reach its orbit around Mars in February 2021, with science operations expected to start in April.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Oct 27, 2020 - Science

NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins on his return to space

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Anadolu Agency, Jim Watson/Getty Images

NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins is slated to head back to the International Space Station next month for his first flight to orbit since 2013.

Why it matters: Hopkins will command the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft that will take him and three other crewmembers — NASA's Shannon Walker and Victor Glover and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi — to the station as part of the capsule's first crewed, non-test flight to orbit.

Andrew Cuomo refuses to resign: "I never touched anyone inappropriately"

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday that he will not resign from his post, despite an independent investigation finding that he sexually harassed multiple women in violation of federal and state law.

Why it matters: Cuomo had previously urged those calling for his resignation — including nearly every prominent New York Democrat — to wait for the results of the investigation overseen by New York Attorney General Letitia James. The findings were damning, but Cuomo said he is not going anywhere.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
3 hours ago - Science

Boeing is getting its do-over

Boeing's Starliner awaits its launch atop an Atlas V rocket. Photo: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Boeing is set to launch a redo of an uncrewed test of its Starliner spacecraft — designed to one day carry astronauts — to the International Space Station this week.

Why it matters: This is a high-stakes test for Boeing, which failed to get its Starliner to the station during its first uncrewed test flight in December 2019.

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