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China Launches Tianwen 1 Mars Mission – Sky & Telescope

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The launch of a Lengthy March 5 rocket carrying Tianwen 1

A Lengthy March 5 rocket roared to life early this morning at 12:41 a.m. EDT / four:41 UT, launching from the Wenchang House Middle within the Hainan province of China. It carried the second Mars mission of 2020: Tianwen 1. (The spacecraft’s title means “inquiries to heaven,” from a poem by Chinese language poet Qu Yuan.)

“The Tianwen 1 mission is a significant landmark mission within the progress of constructing China’s aerospace energy, and a milestone mission for China’s aerospace to go additional and deeper into house,” says Wu Yangsheng (China Aerospace Science and Expertise Company) in a press release.

The mission is an formidable first for any house company: an orbiter, lander, and rover multi function bundle. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) offered solely sparse details about the mission main as much as and in the course of the launch, which was live-streamed by offsite spectators and the nationwide Chinese language broadcast community CCTV.

Chinese language officers lifted the information blackout shortly 36 minutes after launch and declared that Tianwen 1 had efficiently entered a heliocentric trajectory for a seven-month journey to the Crimson Planet.

This was the fifth launch for China’s heavy-lift Lengthy March 5 rocket, wanted to hoist the three,400 kg (7,500 lb) spacecraft right into a Marsbound trajectory. The Lengthy March 5 is China’s reply to staying aggressive with SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, at present in operation, and NASA’s SLS rocket, slated to launch in late 2021. Whereas a Lengthy March 5 rocket failed shortly after a July 2017 launch, because of a primary stage engine malfunction, the revamped rocket was again in enterprise after a take a look at run in late 2019.

Now, the stage is ready for China to carry out one other first for the nation. In February 2021, the spacecraft will enter an elliptical polar orbit round Mars that is 265 by 12,000 kilometers (165 by 7,500 miles). From that vantage level, Tianwen 1 will survey the Crimson Planet with a set of devices, together with a medium- and high-resolution digital camera, energetic and impartial particle analyzers, a magnetometer, a mineralogy spectrometer, and survey radar.

Of prime curiosity for the orbiter is a survey of the Utopia Planitia area of Mars, the place the mission’s lander and rover are anticipated to the touch down. This is similar area that NASA’s Viking 2 visited in 1976. About two to a few months after orbital insertion, the lander will separate from the orbiter and descend for an tried soft-landing on Mars.

A profitable touchdown would make China the third nation to take action, after NASA, which has carried out eight profitable landings, and the Soviet Union, whose Mars three lander operated for a scant 110 seconds on the floor earlier than falling silent.

China’s final bid for Mars, the Yinghuo 1 spacecraft, burned up together with the doomed Russian Phobos-Grunt mission when it reentered the Earth’s ambiance on January 15, 2012. China has had extra success on the Moon, the place it has fielded two rovers: Chang’e three, landed in Mare Imbrium in 2013 and Chang’e four made the first lunar farside landing in January 2019. China hopes to carry out a lunar pattern return with its Chang’e 5 mission later this yr.

The Utopia Planitia area is suspected of containing an enormous reservoir of water ice. The solar-powered rover is predicted to function for 90 days on the Martian floor and has a set of cameras and devices, together with the primary ground-penetrating radar ever fielded on the floor of Mars.

An artist’s conception of China’s Tianwen-1 lander and rover on Mars.
/ China’s State Administration of Science, Expertise and Business for Nationwide Protection.

A lot of what we all know concerning the technical and scientific points of the Tianwen-1 mission comes from a paper printed by chief scientist Wan Weixing in Nature Astronomy. Discover out extra concerning the mission’s targets in Emily Lakdawalla’s characteristic article, “Three Missions Head for Mars.”


The 2020 Mars Mission Scorecard

China’s profitable launch comes just some days after United Arab Emirates launch of their Hope orbiter on Monday. Subsequent up within the Mars launch queue is NASA’s Perseverance rover, set to launch from Cape Canaveral on July 30th.

The Tianwen 1 crew with the spacecraft

The launch comes at a time of strained relations between the U.S. and China. China is likely one of the few main gamers within the fashionable house exploration sport that doesn’t companion with america, due primarily to standing Worldwide Site visitors in Arms Laws restrictions, which ban the U.S. from sharing expertise with China.

Will probably be thrilling to observe the daybreak of 2021, as three new missions arrive on the Crimson Planet. Congratulations to the Tianwen 1 crew on launching an formidable all-in-one bundle to discover Mars.

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