China on Thursday successfully launched Tianwen-1 — its first independent mission to Mars.
According to Xinhua News Agency, a Long March 5 rocket carrying the spacecraft ignited at the Wenchang Space Launch Site in south China’s tropical Hainan province at 12:41 p.m. (0441 GMT).
A live stream of the launch hosted by Chinese media company douyu.com and shared live on YouTube prompted live comments of encouragement, including many posts of “Beijing!” after the takeoff.
Tianwen-1, whose name means “Questions to Heaven,” is a combined orbiter, lander and rover that aims to explore the Martian environment and search for hints of life.
The spacecraft will travel for about seven months until it reaches Mars.
It will orbit the red planet for two to three months before attempting a landing.
If all goes according to plan, the lander will release a rover in April to roam around the surface of Mars and conduct experiments.
If Tianwen-1 is successful, China will become only the third country to land a spacecraft on Mars, after the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
No other space faring nation has attempted a landing with a rover on their first Mars mission.
It is a risky endeavour, previous Mars missions by other nations have had a success rate of about 50 per cent.
China will not be the only nation attempting the feat.
The United Arab Emirates launched its own Mars-bound orbiter on Sunday, while NASA is set to blast off its Perseverance rover coming.
China had launched an orbiter destined for Mars on a Russian rocket in 2011, but the mission failed because the rocket malfunctioned.