A day after UAE’s Hope Orbiter reached Mars, on February 10, 2021, China National Space Administrations’s (CNSA) Tianwen-1 (eng: Questions to Heaven) also made history and entered into orbit around the planet. The CNSA announced that China’s Mars probe Tianwen-1 has successfully entered the orbit of the red planet after a crucial “brake” to decelerate and be captured by Mars gravity. This is the first time China has successfully managed to send a spacecraft to Mars.
Tianwen-1 was launched from Wenchang spaceport on July 23, 2020 and has flown for 202 days, covering 475 million kilometers.
Like the Hope Orbiter, Tianwen-1 also had to undergo an engine-braking burn that lasted for 15 minutes, to reduce its speed. The signal took 11 minutes to reach Earth from 190 million km away. The burn is expected to have put the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit that comes in as close as 400 km from Mars’ surface and will extend out as far as 180,000 km.
Tianwen-1 comprises of an orbiter and a 240 kg rover, which is expected to land on Mars sometime in May or June, on the Utopia Planitia impact basin, north of Mars’ equator.The orbiter has seven remote-sensing instruments to study the planet’s atmosphere, as well as its surface, and its camera will take images from orbit. The rover also has a camera on board to take photographs (so we can expect some great images), and also carries five additional instruments that will assess the mineralogy of local rocks and look for water-ice. A ground-penetrating radar, will be able to sense geological layers at tens meters’ depth.