China launched for the third time this Friday a Long March-5 series rocket, considered one of the most powerful in the world and with which it intends to send the first spacecraft to Mars in 2020.
The cargo rocket was launched from the Wenchang Space Center on China's Hainan Island at 8:45 pm (12:45 pm in Lisbon), and the event was broadcast live on state television CCTV.
If successful, the launch will allow it to “test key technologies for future space missions,” according to New China news agency. The first launch of a Long March-5 took place in November 2016, followed by an aborted attempt in July 2017 after one of the rockets fell overboard after takeoff.
China plans to send its first spacecraft to planet Mars by 2020 and, by 2022, the central module of a new station in orbit after shutting down Tiangong 1 and 2 space stations in 2016 and 2018, respectively. With the shutdown of the International Space Station (ERA) expected in 2024, the new Chinese space station will be the only one to be in orbit from this date.
The United States and its ERA partners (Europe, Russia, Japan and Canada) propose to build a new space station, but in orbit of the moon, Gateway, from which human and robotic missions will be sent to Earth's natural satellite. and later to Mars.
Americans want to send astronauts back to the moon, including the first woman, in 2024, and after that, starting in 2028, establish sustainable missions on the lunar surface. The Orion spacecraft, which will carry astronauts back to the moon, was built in a partnership between the United States and Europe.
In November, the European Space Agency (ESA) revealed its intention to send astronauts to the moon for the first time without realizing dates, announcing that it will begin the recruitment process for this purpose. Only US astronauts were on the moon between 1969 and 1972.
China, which about a year ago became the first country to send a probe to the moon's hidden side (which is not visible from Earth), also aims to bring its first astronaut to the surface and build a lunar base.
The capacity of the Long March-5 rocket is matched by that of the European Ariane-5, North American Delta IV Heavy and Russian Proto-M rockets. Today, Falcon Heavy, from the US SpaceX aerospace company, is the world's most powerful rocket, dethroning Saturn V, which drove the first astronauts to the moon's surface in July 1969.