China’s Tianwen-1 mission is now orbiting Mars ahead of landing


An artist’s impression of the Tianwen-1 spacecraft

Shutterstock/Axel Monse

Mars has one other new customer. The Chinese language Tianwen-1 mission has entered orbit across the Purple Planet, following the United Arab Emirates’ Hope orbiter by simply sooner or later and previous the touchdown of NASA’s Perseverance rover by per week. That is China’s second interplanetary mission, however the first that it has tried with out worldwide companions.

Reaching orbit is simply step one of the Tianwen-1 mission, which took off from the Wenchang launch website in Hainan, China, on 23 July final 12 months. The spacecraft has three components: an orbiter, a lander and a rover.

Now that the craft is safely circling Mars, the following step is to start out the preparations for sending the lander to the floor. Scientists have chosen a website for this in Utopia Planitia, the identical area the place NASA’s Viking 2 lander touched down in 1976. Tianwen-1 will take photos of the realm from orbit to verify circumstances are protected.


If every little thing appears clear, the lander might be launched. It should hurtle in direction of the Martian floor, slowing down with the assistance of a cone-shaped warmth defend and a parachute earlier than a set of rockets brings it softly to relaxation on the bottom. That is anticipated to occur round Might to go away loads of time to evaluate the touchdown website.

Lastly, assuming all goes to plan, the lander will launch a solar-powered rover to trundle across the dusty surface for about 90 Martian days. This car is supplied with cameras, ground-penetrating radar, a magnetic discipline detector, a climate station and an instrument to measure the chemical composition of the mud and rocks. The orbiter additionally carries its personal scientific devices to analyze Mars from orbit.

Collectively, all of those instruments will support within the seek for pockets of liquid water and ice on Mars, in addition to laying the groundwork for extra sophisticated future missions, together with one to convey Mars samples again to Earth for evaluation within the late 2020s.

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