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Mars mission enters final countdown

(China Daily)

08:16, November 09, 2011

BEIJING - Yinghuo-1, China's first interplanetary spacecraft, is set to hitch a ride with Russia's Phobos-Grunt Mars mission in the early hours on Wednesday, after a two-year delay.

A Zenit-2SB rocket will carry Yinghuo-1 and Phobos-Grunt into space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site in Kazakhstan.

It is China and Russia's first joint Mars operation and also marks China's first voyage to the Red Planet, China Great Wall Industry Corp said in a news release on Tuesday.

Yinghuo-1 will work in orbit with Phobos-Grunt for more than 12 months in collecting data on the Martian atmosphere.

Both spacecraft will travel for more than 10 months before entering Martian orbit. During the trip, Yinghuo-1's power supply, communications and temperature gauge will be controlled from the Russian craft, scientists said.

Both craft will orbit the planet three times before decoupling. The 106-kg Yinghuo-1 will circle Mars in an elliptical orbit, while Phobos-Grunt will actually land on Phobos, one of the two Martian moons, and bring back soil samples to Earth.

"The collaboration with Russia will enhance China's ability in deep space exploration, improve spacecraft design and development, and promote planetary exploration," said an unnamed official with the corp, a subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science & Technology Corp. Russia's Lavochkin Research and Production Association signed a cooperation contract, based on an agreement between the Chinese and Russian governments, with China Great Wall Industry Corp in 2007.

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