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1st Mars probe to blast off in 2009
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Xinhua photo: a model of the Mars probe at exhibition

China's first Mars probe is scheduled to be launched atop a Russian rocket in October 2009, Chen Changya, a researcher in charge of the project, said yesterday at a forum in Hainan Province.

It is expected to reach Mars in September 2010 and will eventually send back China's first picture of Mars, Chen said.

The probe is undergoing a series of tests and will connect with a Russian rocket in May Chen said.

The probe, called Yinghuo I, weighs 110 kilograms and resembles a typical weather orbiter, with two solar panels at both sides of a cubic module.

The probe is being developed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology and supported by space experts and astronomers from around the country.

The launch-ready orbiter will be completed by June 2009, just four months before it will be launched by a Russian Soyuz-2 Rocket, which will also carry Russia's unmanned Mars rover Phobos-Grunt.

The journey to Mars will take nearly a year as the distance at its closest orbital position to the Earth is 56.7 million kilometers – 150 times farther than that between the Earth and the moon. A full orbit of the planet will also take the best part of a year.

Yinghuo I will be equipped with seven scientific devices including cameras and equipment to analyze magnetic levels as well as to explore the disappearance of water on the planet.

(Shanghai Daily, December 3, 2007)

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