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China says Mars exploration stable; no word on reusable spacecraft

By Suvan Bose

China’s Mars probe Tianwen-1, which blasted into space in July, is currently beyond 15 million kilometers (9 million miles) from Earth on the way to the red planet, the National Space Administration said on Saturday.

The administration told that Tianwen-1 was in stable condition, having finished its first mid-course orbital correction early last month. It will be around 195 million kilometers (118 million miles) from Earth when it arrives at Mars around February, having travelled 470 million kilometers (292 million miles) in all to get there.

The administration, however, has still to release information on a mysterious reusable experimental spacecraft that returned to Earth a week ago following a two-day flight.

The spacecraft includes an orbiter, a rover and Lander, and displays China’s most ambitious Mars mission yet as it pursues to join the United States in successfully landing a spacecraft on the planet. It was blasted into space aboard a Long March-5 on July 23 over a month when the United Arab Emirates and the U.S. also took benefit of a reduced distance between the planets to launch related missions.

China told the reusable spacecraft to return to its entitled landing spot last Sunday, calling the flight a breakthrough that will ultimately provide suitable round-trip transport to space at a low cost. No other details on the mission or the composition of the spacecraft have been released.

That is also seen as an effort to put China on the leading edge of space flight. The U.S. has for years been functioning the secretive X-37B space plane that residue in orbit for months.

China’s military-backed space program has developed quickly since it appeared just the third country after Russia and the U.S. to put a man in space in 2003. Last year, China’s Chang’e-4 became the first spacecraft from any country to land on the far side of the moon.

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