China quietly lands its ultra-secret experimental spacecraft and claims it'

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There are three major missions bound for Mars in the space of just 10 days this month - the UAE's Hope orbiter, China's Tianwen-1 craft and NASA's Perseverance rover. 

The countries are taking advantage of a period when Earth and Mars are favourably aligned for a relatively short journey.  

July 20: Hope (UAE)

The 3,000lb (1,350kg) craft (pictured) will complete one orbit every 55 hours for a total of one Martian year — 687 Earth days

 - The 2,970-pound probe was built entirely within the Emirates, launched from Japan and will take seven months to reach the Red Planet. 

- When the orbiter gets there in February 2021, it will stay in orbit for a whole Martian year – 687 days. 

- Hope will not land on the Martian surface but take readings from the Red Planet's atmosphere.  

- Hope will help answer key questions about the Martian atmosphere and the loss of hydrogen and oxygen gases into space over the span of one Martian year – called a 'sol'. 

- Three instruments mounted on the probe will provide a picture of Mars's atmosphere throughout the year, and all of the data gathered will be made widely available. 

- This includes an infrared spectrometer to measure the lower atmosphere and temperature, a high-resolution imager to study the ozone and another to look at levels of hydrogen and oxygen up to 27,000 miles from the surface. 

July 23: Tianwen-1

The Chinese space exploration authority introduced the nation's first Mars rover Tianwen-1 (pictured) at a grand ceremony earlier this month. The rover measures just over six feet in height

 - This robotic spacecraft consists of an orbiter (stationed in the atmosphere), a lander (stationary on the planet's surface) and a rover (roaming the surface). 

- The craft measures just over six feet in height (1.85m) and weighs 530 pounds (240kg). 

- It will survey the composition, types of substance, geological structure and meteorological environment of the Martian surface. 

- The solar-powered machine is designed to work on Mars for three Martian months, about 92 Earth days.

- It includes a geological camera, a multispectral camera, a subsurface detection radar, a surface composition detector, a surface magnetic field detector and a weather detector.

- A poem pondering on the stars and planets written over 2000 years ago was the inspiration for the name of China's first exploration mission to Mars. 

- Called Tianwen (天问), the poem was written by ancient Chinese literati and politician Qu Yuan (339-278BC), who lived in the Chu State (770-223BC). 

July 30: Perseverance

NASA's Mars 2020 Rover will pick up samples of rock and soil from the red planet, deposit them in tubes and leave them on the ground for a future mission to return them to Earth.

- NASA's Perseverance rover is the heaviest payload yet to go to the Red Planet - at a car-sized 2,259 pounds (1,025kg).  

The mission will seek signs of past microbial life on Mars and collect rock and soil samples for eventual return to Earth.   

- The Mars Perseverance rover introduces a drill that can collect core samples of the most promising rocks and soils and set them aside in a 'cache' on the surface of Mars. 

- The rover will travel using an ultraviolet laser to determine what minerals and compounds are present in the soil, based on the way the light scatters. 

- The Mars 2020 rover, which was built at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California., is now at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for final preparations. 

- It launches to space on July 30 and is set to touch down on Mars in 12 months. 

- It has a mission duration of 1 Mars year (668 sols or 687 Earth days) and will touch down on the planet's Jezero crater on Mars in February 2021.  

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