Mars probe postponed due to Russia's 'technical reasons'

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The launch of China's first Mars probe "Yinghuo-1", originally scheduled for October 2009 on a Russian carrier rocket, has been postponed until 2011 due to Russia's "technical reasons", a Chinese space exploration official said in Beijing Wednesday.

Ye Peijian, chief designer of Chang'e-1, the country's first moon probe, told Xinhua about the delay on the sidelines of the ongoing annual session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, China's top political advisory body.

"Actually, China is now completely capable of exploring Mars independently," said Ye, also a member of the CPPCC National Committee. "With the improvement of our technologies, there is no problem for China to launch its Mars probe with its own observation and control system."

Ye said the most suitable time to launch the Mars probe would be in the years 2011, 2013 and 2016 when the distances between Mars and the Earth are the shortest.

Yinghuo-1, China's third major space exploration plan after the manned space project and moon mission, was originally scheduled to be launched by a Russian carrier rocket, accompanied by the Russian spacecraft Phobos-Grunt. The Russian spacecraft is making a sample return mission to Phobos, one of the moons of Mars.

The Chinese Mars probe is 75 centimeters long, 75 cm wide and 60 cm high. It weighs 115 kilograms and was designed for a two-year life to discover why water disappeared from Mars and explain other environmental changes on the planet.

"Yinghuo" means light from the firefly in Chinese.

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