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 20, 2020 - Science

NASA tags an asteroid

A global map of Bennu. Photo: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft briefly touched the surface of an asteroid Tuesday in a bid to collect a sample from the space rock that will one day be returned to Earth.

Why it matters: Scientist are hoping to study a sample from the asteroid, named Bennu, to piece together more about the solar system's evolution. Asteroids are thought to be leftovers from the formation of planets billions of years ago.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Oct 20, 2020 - Science

NASA will attempt to snag an asteroid sample today

Bennu as seen by OSIRIS-REx. Photo: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

NASA will attempt to grab a sample from an asteroid tonight.

The big picture: Scientists hope the sample from the asteroid Bennu will allow them to learn more about the early days of the solar system and how it has evolved over billions of years.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
54 mins ago - Economy & Business

Coronavirus surge is sinking consumer confidence

Data: Hamilton Place Strategies, CivicScience; Chart: Axios Visuals

The rise in coronavirus cases in certain parts of the U.S. is stunting confidence across the country, a crop of new reports show.

Driving the news: After stalling during the previous two-week period, overall economic sentiment declined for the first time in two months, according to the Economic Sentiment Index, a biweekly survey from data firm CivicScience and Hamilton Place Strategies (HPS).

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!