Beijing, Feb 5 (efe-epa).- The Chinese probe Tianwen 1, bound for Mars, will begin descending into the planet and starting orbiting maneuvers close to Feb. 10.
In a statement published Thursday, the National Space Administration of China (ANEC) said the probe “is stable and expected to decelerate around Feb. 10, enter orbit and land on the Utopia plain in the northern hemisphere of Mars, in May.”
“The landing site is at the crossroads of several ancient oceans,” ANEC said, so “scientists believe this place has great scientific value and is likely to achieve unexpected results.”
The text details the mission plans to “orbit, land and patrol Mars.”
Tianwen 1, China’s first independent mission to Mars, was launched on Jul. 23 and on Jan. 3 had already traveled 400 million kilometers.
The distance between Earth and Mars depends on the orbits of both planets and can vary between 55 million and 400 million kilometers.
The director of science and technology of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, Bao Weimin, said the braking operation will be crucial for the success of the mission because if it fails, the probe will fly beyond Mars and become a “lost ship” in the solar system.
“During the operation, the guidance, navigation and control systems will perform primary functions, as they will be responsible for calculating and adjusting each maneuver,” Bao said.
The spacecraft has already performed three mid-course corrections and one deep space orbital maneuver, according to the official People’s Daily.
The country’s space agency has at least three other missions of this type, not counting Tianwen 1: asteroid exploration in 2024, another mission to Mars that returns with samples for 2030 and another that same year that it will explore Jupiter.
In recent years, Beijing has invested heavily in its space program and, in January 2019, the lunar probe Chang’e 4 landed on the far side of the Moon, a milestone never achieved in the history of space exploration. EFE-EPA