Science & Technology

China’s Tianwen-1 probe will enter Mars’ orbit in February

Shanghai, China, Jan 3 (efe-epa).- Chinese first probe to Mars, Tianwen-1, will enter the red planet’s orbit in February as planned, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said Sunday.

After its launch on July 23 last year, the spacecraft is already 130 million km (80 million miles) away from the Earth and has to travel another 8.3 million km to reach the red planet, where it is scheduled to land in May.

Before reaching Mars orbit, Tianwen-1, which is in stable condition, will decelerate.

After arriving in the vicinity of the fourth planet from the Sun, the probe will spend between two and three months identifying the most favorable place to land on its surface.

The CNSA had said in October last year that the site selected for the spacecraft’s landing is Utopia Planitia, a large plain within Utopia, the largest recognized impact basin on Mars and in the Solar System.

According to geologists, the site could be the bottom of an ancient ocean.

The spacecraft weighs five metric tons and is made up of a landing capsule and an orbiter and is carrying a rover aboard.

Making a soft landing is the most difficult part of the mission and consists of a process lasting between six-to-eight minutes during which the Tianwen-1 will operate autonomously.

After landing, the probe will deploy the rover that will move around Mars for about three Earth months to carry out scientific surveys while the orbiter ensures communication with the Earth.

If the mission is successful, China will become the second country to operate a rover on Mars after the United States, which has sent four rovers.

The tasks of the rover include a study of the morphology, geological structure, soil characteristics, distribution of frozen water near the surface, composition and climatic conditions of that surface and atmospheric ionosphere as well as analysis of the magnetic fields and internal structure of the planet.

The mission’s name comes from the poem “Tianwen” (Questions to Heaven) written by Qu Yuan (around 340 BC to 278 BC), one of the greatest poets of ancient China.

Beijing has invested heavily in its space program in recent years.

In January 2019, it managed to land the Chang’e-4 probe on the far side of the Moon, a milestone never achieved before in the history of lunar exploration.

By 2030, the Asian country plans to send another, larger probe to Mars to collect samples and bring them back to Earth and also has its sights set on sending humans to the red planet in the future. EFE-EPA

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