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China launches probe to Mars

China launched a probe into Mars today, world agencies reported.
The unmanned lander drove off with a carrier missile Changzhen-5 (Long March 5) from the Wenchang spaceport on the southern Chinese island of Hainan.

The Tianvan-1 probe (Questions to Sky 1) is expected to reach Mars in February. It carries various scientific tools to explore the planet's atmosphere and surface for traces of water and ice, the BTA reported.

This is the first solo Chinese mission to another planet. It is a query for a global leadership role in the space sphere and an expression of technological prowess and ambition by China, Reuters notes.

If Tianvan-1's mission is successful, China will become only the third country, after the United States and the former Soviet Union, to bring a spacecraft to the surface of the Red Planet, DPA notes.

Currently, eight devices - American, European and Indian - are orbiting Mars or on its surface.

On Sunday (early Monday morning Bulgarian time), the United Arab Emirates launched its probe into the Red Planet from Japan. A new US mission is also expected in the coming months.

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