New Delhi, May 29: China's first Mars probe, Yinghuo-1, is expected to be launched later in '09 according to an official of the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST).
The probe had passed test of the research phase, Zhang Weiqiang, deputy secretary of SAST Committee of the Communist Party of China, told the third Shanghai International Aerospace Technology and Equipment Exhibition.
Yinghuo-1 will be launched by a Russian carrier rocket, accompanied by the Russian aerocraft Phobos-Grunt.
"The Russian aerocraft is making a sample return mission to Phobos, one of the moons of Mars," Zhang said.
According to Zhang, Yinghuo-1 would go into Mars orbit in 2010 after a 10-month, 380-million-kilometer journey, Zhang said.
But, unlike the Russian craft, Yinghuo-1 won't land but would only orbit and observe, he added.
The Chinese probe is 75 centimeters long, 75 cm wide and 60 cm high. It weighs 115 kilograms and was designed for a two-year life, Zhang said.
"Yinghuo" means light from firefly in Chinese.
"Yinghuo-1 is expected to discover why water disappeared from Mars and explain other environmental changes of the planet," Zhang said.
The project is China's third major space exploration plan after the manned space project and the moon exploration program.
"It was also the first time that China would explore another planet," Zhang said.