China’s Tianwen-1 probe to enter Mars’ orbit

Jamie Harris, PA Science Technology Reporter

Mars is set to welcome its second probe in the space of 24 hours on Wednesday, with China’s Tianwen-1 expected to enter orbit.

The country is hoping to add its name to the short list of nations that have successfully reached the red planet, after its first attempt with Russia in 2011 failed to make it through Earth’s orbit.

Tianwen-1 – or the Quest for Heavenly Truth – is a double orbiter and rover effort and, should all go well, the latter will make its way to the surface in May via a lander, a feat that would make China only the second country to successfully place a rover on Mars.

The spacecraft blasted off from Earth seven months ago on board a Long March-5 carrier rocket from Hainan Island, China.

Tianwen-1 Mars rover
(PA Graphics)

Last week, Tianwen-1 sent back its first photo of Mars, taken 1.4 million miles away from the planet.

A fourth orbital correction was conducted by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) on Friday, igniting one of its engines to ensure the spacecraft is flying in the right direction toward the Martian gravitational field.

The aim of the mission is to explore for underground water as well as searching for evidence of possible ancient life.

Its solar-powered rover weighs 529lb (240kg) and should operate for about three months, while the orbiter is expected to last two years.

Tianwen-1 is the second of three Mars missions taking place in February.

On Tuesday the UAE’s Hope probe entered orbit, while next week Nasa’s Perseverance rover will attempt to land on the red planet.

From Our Partners