China’s Tianwen 1 Arrives at Mars – Sky & Telescope

Tianwen 1 photo of Mars
Tianwen 1 snapped this picture of Mars shortly earlier than arrival in orbit.

…and now there are two. The second 2021 arrival at Mars occurred this week, as China’s aspiring Tianwen 1 (which means ‘inquiries to the heavens’ in Chinese language) burned its thrusters for 15 minutes, coming into an preliminary seize orbit across the Pink Planet.

The engine burn commenced at 6:52 a.m. EST (11:52 UT) on Wednesday, February 10th, and the China Nationwide Area Administration (CNSA) mission management obtained the spacecraft’s sign of success 11 minutes later.

The European Space Agency assisted China with monitoring Tianwen 1 on Wednesday because it emerged from behind Mars and phoned residence.

“We are going to cooperate sincerely and go hand in hand with international locations all around the world to make mankind’s exploration of area go additional,” says Zhang Kejian (CNSA Director) in a short press release. “On the event of the New Yr vacation, on behalf of the primary Mars exploration mission headquarters, I want to lengthen Chinese language New Yr blessings to all of the contributors within the .” (Chinese language New Yr celebrations start on Friday, February 12th.)

The Tianwen 1 team
The Tianwen 1 crew with the spacecraft.

The arrival makes China the sixth nationwide area company to efficiently area a mission to Mars, behind america, the Soviet Union, the European Area Company, India and — only a day earlier this week — the United Arab Emirates, with the arrival of its Hope orbiter. Japan’s Nozomi mission didn’t enter Mars orbit in 2003, and Russia has but to efficiently to Mars because the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Tianwen 1 is a 5-ton, all-in-one, orbiter/lander/rover bundle — a primary for any Mars mission.

Now, Tianwen 1 is in a 10-day, 400- by 180,000-kilometer orbit (250 miles by 112,000 miles) inclined 10° relative to the Martian equator. A number of extra engine burns over the subsequent few weeks will circularize its orbit, finally bringing the spacecraft to a periapsis (closest strategy) of 265 km above the Martian floor. Tianwen 1 might launch its lander and rover as early as this coming Could. They are going to goal a touchdown web site in Utopia Planitia, the identical normal area the place NASA’s Viking 2 mission landed in 1976.

Tianwen 1 orbit
This diagram exhibits the orbit of Tianwen 1 round Mars. (Word: the preliminary seize orbit parameters depicted within the diagram fluctuate barely from the precise orbit.)
Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The 240-kilogram (530-pound) solar-powered rover is predicted to final 90 days, whereas the orbiter ought to function for one Martian yr, or 687 Earth days.

Tianwen 1 has 13 scientific payloads aboard the orbiter and rover which might be designed to map water ice throughout the Martian floor and research the planet’s tenuous environment and magnetic setting. Sounding radar on the orbiter will probe the floor on a big scale, whereas the surface-penetrating radar on the rover will make a “floor fact” measurement on the touchdown web site, lengthen about 100 (330 toes) beneath the floor.

Potential Tianwen 1 landing sites
This map exhibits two preliminary touchdown websites for Tianwen 1. Web site 2 is now the popular major web site.

Launched from Wenchang Space Center in China final summer time atop a Lengthy March 5 raise rocket on July 23, 2020, Tianwen 1 is one in all three missions that took benefit of the biannual Mars launch window in 2020. En path to Mars, Tianwen 1 ejected a small digital camera satellite tv for pc, which took a ‘deep area selfie’:

Tianwen 1 selfie
Tianwen 1’s inflight “selfie”

The opposite missions are the United Arab Emirates’ Hope probe, which additionally entered orbit this week, and NASA’s Perseverance rover, which can are available in for a sky-hook touchdown subsequent week on February 18h. A fourth mission, a joint effort between the European Area Company and Russia’s Roscosmos company to fly the ExoMars Rosalind Franklin rover, has slipped back one launch window to 2022.

China has been busy in area as of late. Their newest success was the Chang’e 5 lunar sample return mission in late 2020. Info on simply what China is doing in area tends to trickle out by way of quick authorities press releases, state-run tv, and secondary sources, to incorporate ham radio operators worldwide and observers of the Chinese language area program on-line. Comply with journalist Andrew Jones (@AF_JI on Twitter) for updates.


The arrival of Tianwen 1 at Mars marks a significant milestone for the Chinese language area program and the second act on the stage of a busy ‘Mars season’ for 2021.



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