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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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Launch of interactive map to identify all legal waste companies


In a move to better target those responsible for illegal dumping around the country, a new interactive map identifying all legal waste companies has been launched by Minister for Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton.

He said illegal dumpers were a scourge on communities across the country, and the new map available on mywaste.ie would ensure householders everywhere were able to quickly check that “the waste company collecting their waste has the appropriate authorisation to do so”.

Managing resources correctly was a key part of the Government’s climate action plan, he said, and actions such as those against illegal operators would ensure waste was managed in a better way, while giving people “a cleaner, safer and more sustainable future”.

He said some €3 million had gone into local community measures to tackle illegal dumping under the Anti-Dumping Initiative this year – a 50 per cent increase on last year. This was separate to a €7.4 million annual enforcement grant which supports recruitment and retention of 150 local authority waste enforcement personnel across the country.

mywaste.ie was initially launched last year by the Government as a guide to waste management and recycling.

Speaking at a Irish Waste Management Conference in Dublin, Leo Duffy of the National Waste Collection Permit Office (NWCPO) said there were 2,433 permitted waste collectors working across the State.

“By law all waste collectors in Ireland must have a valid NWCPO waste collection permit to operate legally. This ensures household waste is disposed of correctly. It ensures the content of the recycling bin can be returned for recycling, and the contents of the brown bin are properly processed. By using a permitted waste collector householders can be assured their general waste is being processed properly.”

Clean-ups

Kevin Swift, waste plan co-ordinator with the Connacht-Ulster Waste Management Office, said some of the waste discovered in its clean-ups belonged to householders who believed their waste was being disposed of by an authorised waste collector.

“With the new service on mywaste.ie, householders can assure themselves that their waste collector has an up-to-date permit, and also see with just one click of a button all permitted waste management providers in their area.”



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