Chinese Tianwen-1 Mars Mission On Track For Its July Launch

china mars 2020 orbiter
Tianwen-1 lander using thrusters for landing. (Xinhua)

On April 24th, China has revealed the name and logo of its first independent interplanetary mission. This was done in honor of the 50th anniversary of the launch of the country’s first satellite; the DFH-1 launched on April 24th 1970.

The mission was named Tianwen-1 and will consist of a combined Mars orbiter and lander/rover and is scheduled for a July launch. The plan is to reach mars by February 202, where the orbiter will first spend several weeks mapping the surface with a high resolution camera. Afterwards the 240 kg rover will be sent to the surface.

Once on the Mars surface, the rover will use a ground-penetrating radar, a multispectral camera, a laser induced breakdown spectroscopy instrument and various other onboard tools to study the Marian environment, climate and geology. It is designed to function for about three Earth months and will be named by public vote closer to the launch window.

Tianwen-1: Questions to Heaven

The mission name translates to ‘Questions to heaven’ and is taken from a 400 BC poem by Qu Yuan. It will be the first out of a series of several missions led by China. With follow up projects already being considered. These were; a mission to the icy giants and interstellar space, a near-Earth asteroid sample return and possibly even a comet rendezvous.

The mission logo consists out of a set of concentric planetarily orbits that are drawn in such a way that they represent several Latin letter c’s. These c’s are said to stand for ‘China’, ‘Cooperation’ and the ‘Cosmic velocity’ required to carry out these missions.

Mars Landing Sites

Two landing sites have been released by China, both in the Utopia Planitia area of the Red Planet. Both are apparently based on a myriad of factors including things like entry angle, flight system constraints and descent angle. Both sites are said to be around 100 x 40 km in size.

Despite the Covid-19 outbreak that has swept the country since, this schedule has, as of yet, not changed. This is a good thing, because the current Mars launch window lasts only from June to August, and the project will risk a several years long delay if it misses it.

There have been various missions to Mars launched since the first successful flyby back in 1965.

If everything goes right, the Tianwen-1 will launch together with NASA’s Perseverance Mars 2020 rover and the United Arab Emirates Hope Mars orbiter and launch somewhere in the July – August launch window for Mars. The European Rosa Parks rover has already been delayed until the next launch window in 2022

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