By the time it reaches Mars, it will have passed more than 500 million kilometers.
On July 23 last year, the Chinese robotic expedition “Tianwen-1” was sent to Mars. This is China’s second attempt to reach the Red Planet. Let me remind you that the first attempt was in 2011 when the Yinghuo-1 microprobe failed together with the crash of the ill-fated Russian mission Fobos-Grunt.
Unlike then, “Tianwen-1” is an entirely Chinese mission. It consists of three components – an orbiter, a lander, and a rover. It is expected that “Tianwen-1” will reach Mars’s orbit next month in February. Later, probably around May, the lander will attempt a soft landing in the Utopia Plain. Yes, this is exactly the same place where Viking 2 landed more than 40 years ago.
So far, only the US space agency NASA has managed to achieve soft landings on the Red Planet, after which the landing gear remained in working order. There are currently two US missions operating on the Martian surface – Curiosity and InSight.
Tianwen-1 has now traveled more than 400 million kilometers in 6 months
Less than a month ago it was reported that Tianwen-1 was around 100 million kilometers away from Earth after several orbital corrections. All maneuvers were executed perfectly and the spacecraft is safely moving towards its final destination – Mars.
Now, the latest reports say that Tianwen-1 is less than 8.5 million kilometers away from the Red Planet and has passed more than 400 million kilometers since July last year.
It is expected that it will reach orbit in about a month when it will have traveled more than 500 million kilometers in total.
If the landing in May is successful, the lander should transmit data for at least 90 Martian Days before it loses power or else. If you are unaware, one Martian day lasts less than an hour longer than one day on Earth.
Now, if successful, I expect that Tianwen-1 will operate for much longer than the original estimates. We have seen it in many previous missions in space – orbiters, probes, and landers surpassing their life expectancies with many years.
I believe that once Tianwen-1 lands, which is the hardest possible task, it will exceed its potential.
Future of Chinese Space Exploration
China has proven its massive ambitions with the recent successful missions to the Moon and the overall plans for the future.
We recently reported the next major step for China – the construction of their own Space Station which has already begun and should be completed by 2022.
But why does China need its own space station when there is already an ISS in orbit? Well, since the United States put all cooperation with China on hold, there has not been any way for China to participate.
Of course, this is all due to political reasons and problems concerning national security but to me, it is totally wrong. Why can’t there be cooperation at least in space exploration which does not involve any territory or influence on Earth?
I believe that we can achieve much more if all the large space agencies combine their efforts. As an example, we see the ambitious Tianwen-1 mission to Mars. Besides it, there are two more missions on their way to the Red Planet, one from NASA and one from the United Arab Emirates.
And then we have Elon Musk and his ideas for the colonization of Mars. We can safely say that Mars is now the new frontier and instead of cooperation, we see different nations with similar ideas fighting over who will be first to do whatever.
If anything is certain, it is that we will be seeing Chinese space achievements a lot more in the news in the upcoming years. Chang’e 5 and Tianwen-1 are only the beginning of a long series of space missions that will keep China on the forefront next to NASA and Roscosmos.
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• Armstrong, M. (2021, January 03). China space probe due to enter Mars’ orbit.
• China plans to complete space station by 2022. (2020, May 06).
• China’s first Mars mission expected to reach red planet orbit next month. (2021, January 04).
• China’s Tianwen-1 on last leg of its journey: Travelled more than 400 million km, expected to enter Mars’ orbit next month- Technology News, Firstpost. (2021, January 04).