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China set for historic Mars rover launch


China is making preparations to send its Tianwen-1 Mars rover to the Red Planet.

The rover, which will be China’s first to reach the Martian surface, will be carried into space on a Long March-5 rocket.

The carrier rocket has been moved into position and is due to blast off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center, in the southern island province of Hainan, in late July or early August, according to scientists involved in the project.

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Citing unofficial estimates, Space.com reports the launch could occur around July 23.

In this Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 file photo, a Mars lander is lifted during a test for its hovering, obstacle avoidance and deceleration capabilities at a facility at Huailai in China's Hebei province.

In this Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 file photo, a Mars lander is lifted during a test for its hovering, obstacle avoidance and deceleration capabilities at a facility at Huailai in China’s Hebei province.
(AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Tianwen means “questions to heaven” and is the name of a poem by ancient Chinese poet Qu Yuan.

“The Tianwen-1 probe, with a mass (including fuel) of about 5 tonnes, comprises an orbiter and a lander/rover composite,” explains the mission’s chief scientist and his team in a recent paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy. “The orbiter will provide a relay communication link to the rover, while performing its own scientific observations for one Martian year.”

A Martian year lasts 687 days.

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The probe is expected to reach Mars seven months after its launch. “The lander/rover will perform a soft landing on the Martian surface some 2–3 months after arrival of the spacecraft, with a candidate landing site in Utopia Planitia,” the chief scientist explains in the paper. In 1976, NASA’s Viking 2 Lander also landed in Utopia Planitia.

In this Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 file photo, the Mars lander's hovering, obstacle avoidance and deceleration capabilities are tested at a facility at Huailai in China's Hebei province.

In this Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 file photo, the Mars lander’s hovering, obstacle avoidance and deceleration capabilities are tested at a facility at Huailai in China’s Hebei province.
(AP Photo/Andy Wong)

In 2011, China launched its Yinghuo-1 Mars exploration mission, but the orbiter was stranded in near-Earth orbit following a malfunction on the Russian Phobos-Grunt mission carrying it into space. NASA noted that the Chinese and Russian spacecraft reentered Earth’s atmosphere on Jan. 15, 2012.

This is a busy time for Mars launches. The United Arab Emirates recently launched its Amal orbiter to the Red Planet. Amal, which is Arabic for Hope, will not land on Mars, but is the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission.

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NASA is also getting ready to launch its Mars 2020 Perseverance rover on an epic mission to the Red Planet. The launch window for the spacecraft that will carry the Perseverance rover to Mars opens on July 30 and closes on Aug. 15 of this year.

Launched atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the rover is scheduled to land on Mars’ Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021. The mission’s duration on the Red Planet’s surface is expected to last at least one Martian year.

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So far, the U.S. has been the only country to successfully put a spacecraft on Mars, doing it eight times. Two NASA landers are operating there, InSight and Curiosity. Six other spacecraft are exploring the planet from orbit: three U.S., two European and one from India.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers





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Tomb of battle-scarred ancient female warrior reveals its secrets


The tomb of a battle-scarred ancient female warrior discovered in Armenia is revealing its secrets.

The woman’s remains, which date to the 8th to 6th-century B.C., were found at the ancient necropolis of Bover I in Armenia’s Lori Province. The site was excavated in 2017 and experts are shedding new light on the discovery in a paper that has been accepted for publication in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. The paper has undergone full peer review.

In an abstract, experts note that the skeleton “belonged to a woman who seemed to live as a professional warrior and was buried as an individual of rank.”

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While jewelry discovered near the remains points to the woman’s high social status, the skeleton also bears evidence of her warrior role. An iron arrowhead, for example, is trapped in her femur and she also suffered blows to her pelvic bone, femur and tibia. While the woman is believed to have died in battle, she apparently recovered from the arrowhead injury. Experts note that her injuries were likely sustained in two separate conflicts.

The skeletal remains, which have sustained a number of injuries. Jewelry discovered with the skeleton indicates that the woman was of high status.

The skeletal remains, which have sustained a number of injuries. Jewelry discovered with the skeleton indicates that the woman was of high status.
(​A.Yu. Khudaverdyan et al/International Journal of Osteoarchaeology ​)

The skeleton’s muscular attachments are also strong, according to the researchers, and her upper limbs show signs of intense physical activity. Her pectoralis major and deltoid muscles, for example, had been used to draw a bow across her chest. Her femurs also bear the signs of muscles developed through horse riding.

The tomb is only the second burial discovered in Armenia that provides evidence of female warriors, according to the research. However, experts say that female warriors were not uncommon in the Caucasus during ancient times and may even have been the inspiration for the Amazons of Greek myth.

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The area where the remains were recovered. (A.Yu. Khudaverdyan et al/International Journal of Osteoarchaeology)

The area where the remains were recovered. (A.Yu. Khudaverdyan et al/International Journal of Osteoarchaeology)

The graves of other female warriors have been garnering attention recent years. In Sweden, a grave containing the skeleton of a Viking warrior long thought to be male was recently confirmed as female.

The 10th-century grave, known as Bj. 581, was first discovered on the Swedish island of Bjorko in the late 19th century and was assumed to be male. In 2017, however, experts published the results of a DNA analysis that revealed the skeleton was female. The amazing discovery sparked plenty of debate.

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In another paper published earlier this year in the journal Antiquity, researchers responded to critics of a study explaining that they analyzed the correct skeleton and that there was only one set of human remains in the grave.

In a separate project, researchers revealed that a mysterious female warrior discovered in a Viking grave in Denmark wasn’t actually a Viking.

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Fox News’ Chris Ciaccia contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers.





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