China Space Programme Current Affairs - 2020

Tianwen 1: China’s first Mars Exploration Mission

On April 24, 2020, the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) named its first Mars Exploration mission as Tianwen 1. The CNSA also announced that henceforth all the planetary missions are to be named as Tianwen series.


The announcement comes on April 24 as China has been celebrating its National Space Day on April 24 since 2016.

National Space Day of China

China celebrates its Space Day to mark the launch of its first satellite Dongfanghong-1.


Tianwen means Heavenly Questions. The Chinese Mars mission includes orbiting, landing and roving on the planet mars. Earlier in 2011, China attempted to send its exploratory probe called Yinghuo-I in a Russian spacecraft. However, the spacecraft was declared lost after it burnt during its re-entry.

World Mars Missions

So far countries such as India, Russia, European Union and United States have succeeded in sending missions to Mars. India’s mars mission was named “Mangalyaan”. It was launched in 2013 by ISRO. India was the fourth country in the world to reach Mars after Russia, USA and European Union.

China launches Space Rocket from Yellow Sea for 1st time

China launched a space rocket named “Long March 11” from a mobile launch platform in Yellow Sea off Shandong province (China) for the first time. With this China became 3rd nation following the U.S. and Russia to successfully demonstrate ability to launch satellites into orbit from a floating platform.

Key Highlights

  • Background: In 2003, China became only 3rd nation to have capability of launching humans into space and in early 2019 became 1st nation to land a rover on far side of moon. The Long March rocket first flew in 2015, and this was its 7th launch but was China’s first attempt at an offshore launch of rocket into Earth orbit.
  • About: The Long March 11 rocket was launched by China from a ship deployed in Yellow Sea, making it first time that China has tested a launch vehicle at sea. This maiden sea launch by China has now unveiled its ambitious plans to build a research base on lunar surface, send a probe to Mars and build a space station in Earth orbit in coming future. Also, China now spends more than Russia and Japan on its civil and military space programmes.
  • Payload: The space rocket carried 2 experimental satellites (named Bufeng-1A and Bufeng-1B) and 5 commercial ones.
  • Advantages: Launching rockets from sea has a number of advantages over land-based rocket launches, like ability to send off rockets from a variety of locations on Earth, and benefit of reduced costs and risks (as rocket can lift off closer to equator,).
  • Significance: With sea launches, China now has ability to deploy satellites from a mobile platform and is latest step in China’s push to become a major space power.
  • Importance: This successful launch marks another win for Beijing’s space programme and opened a new launching mode for China to enter space quickly.