Destination: Mars — China’s biggest rocket blasts off again

Science & Health

After a two and a half year delay, China's Long March 5 rocket is now flying again, after a successful launch on December 27. The rocket will be critical for China to send a lunar to the Moon and a rover to Mars next year, and to set the China Space Station into orbit in 2022.

rocket

Photo credit: SupChina illustration by Derek Zheng

China’s space program is taking off: The country has ambitious plans to launch its fifth lunar lander, send a rover to Mars, and begin operating its China Space Station, all in the next few years.

These all depend, however, on the flagship rocket launcher actually working. A core stage engine failure on a July 2, 2017, launch of the Long March 5 rocket delayed numerous space projects as the failure was investigated.

The Long March 5 is now flying again, after a successful launch on December 27. The Global Times reports that it “successfully sent a high-throughput communication satellite Shijian-20 into planned orbit.”

The rocket will be critical for all three of the aforementioned projects, Spaceflight Now explains — going to the Moon for China’s fifth time, going to Mars for its first time, and setting the China Space Station into orbit.