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China to launch Mars satellite next year
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China will launch an exploration satellite to Mars next year while a new carrier rocket will launch in 2013.

The satellite will be launched in September, according to an official from The Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation before the opening of the 2008 China Air Show in Zhuhai City in southern Guangdong Province, Guangzhou Daily reported today.

Wang Li, who is responsible for the company's exhibit, was quoted as saying: "A Chinese satellite will take a Russian spaceship to Mars after an 11-month journey in the summer of 2010. It will gather data on Mars' space environment and the relationship between solar wind and the planet's magnetic field."

September was selected for the launch because it will reduce time needed to reach Mars, Wang was cited as saying.

"Though it will still take 11 months, which is much longer than moon missions, the launch will mark the first solid step in China's exploration of Mars," Wang told the newspaper.

In addition, the new Long March 5 carrier rocket will launch in 2013 with a capacity of 25 tons in low orbit. The most advanced carrier rocket presently can take a capacity of 9.5 tons into low orbit. A model of Long March 5 has been set up at the exhibition site, the report said.

The Long March 5 will be used for manned missions as well as to transport large telescopes, moon explorers, outer space explorers and application satellites weighing up to 20 tons.

China is soon expected to open the tendering process for the country's first moon rover, according to an earlier report.

The National Space Agency plans to send a robotic vehicle to the moon by 2012 in the second phase of its Chang'e lunar exploration project.

At least 13 research institutes are interested in bidding for the contract, which is estimated to exceed 1 billion yuan (US$147 million).

(Shanghai Daily November 3, 2008)

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