and a half months after it left Earth’s gravitational pull, China’s Tianwen-1
Mars mission craft has successfully entered into Mars’s orbit, a Chinese first
and the planet’s second visitor this week.
The Tianwen craft, which consists of a lander, rover, and orbiter, will remain in a stable orbit until it makes contact later this year.
China launched the Tianwen (which means ‘question to heaven’), experimental craft in July last year. China was one of three nations that took advantage of a two-month window when Mars’s and Earth’s orbits were aligned relative to the sun – an event that only occurs once every two earth years, according to the Verge.
Tianwen is currently in an orbit that, at times, brings it as close as 400km from the Martian surface. The craft will survey the Utopia Planitia region of Mars and attempt to make contact with the chosen landing site in May. If successful contact is made it will be only the second mission to do so after the United States.
China’s first attempt at the Red Planet was in 2011 when, with Russia, it launched the Yinghuo-1 orbiter. The Chinese craft hitched a ride on Russia’s Phobos-Grunt sample return mission but crashed and burned in the launch phase.
Tianwen is a wholly Chinese mission, developed by China’s National Space Administration, and is significantly beefier than its predecessor.
It weighs 5 000 kilograms – Yinghuo-1 topped the scale at 115 kilograms – and is designed to study the Martian surface in detail.
The orbiter is equipped with sensory gear that will observe the surface of the planet whilst in a stable orbit. It is armed with high-resolution cameras, spectrometers, a magnetometer, and radar devices designed to analyse every detail of our galactic neighbour.
rover will be deployed once a successful landing has been achieved. It is
equipped with a series of instruments designed to look for evidence of water
buried under the alien soil.
The Planetary Society applauded China’s inter-planetary success and urged more cooperation between global space agencies.
China has completed the construction of an enormous 70m in diameter antenna in Tianjin. The structure has a surface area comparable to nine basketball courts, and was finished in February this year.