Capture orbit of400km by 180,000km Parking orbit of280km by 59,000km Scientific orbit of265km by 15,000km Final scientific orbit of265km by 12,000km

China Tianwen-1 Mars mission: the rover has landed

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Published May 18, 2021

China’s Zhu Rong rover makes a historic landing on the red planet.

July 23, 2020
Rocket blasts off.
July 23, 2020
Tianwen-1 probe released, begins seven-month journey covering nearly 500 million km.
Tianwen-1 performs a series of manoeuvres as it moves away from Earth’s orbit and approaches Mars. These manoeuvres, or “orbital corrections”, ensure the spacecraft maintains its course.
August 2, 2020
First orbital correction (3 million km from Earth).
September 20, 2020
Second orbital correction (19 million km from Earth).
October 9, 2020
Deep-space manoeuvre (29.4 million km from Earth).
October 28, 2020
Third orbital correction (44 million km from Earth).
February 5, 2021
Fourth orbital correction (184 million km from Earth and 1.1 million km from Mars).
February 10, 2021
Spacecraft enters Mars orbit by performing an insertion manoeuvre.
February 24, 2021
After conducting multiple orbital corrections, the probe enters parking orbit, surveying potential landing sites.
The Long March 5 rocket, China’s largest and most powerful launch vehicle, uses kerosene/liquid oxygen engines.
Rocket debris falls into the ocean.
China is developing reusable launch vehicle technology, aimed at reducing mission costs.
Mission launches in July to take advantage of the close alignment of Earth and Mars, allowing for a quicker trip.
China, the United States and the United Arab Emirates each launched Mars missions in the space of 11 days in July 2020. Hope, the UAE’s first Mars mission, swung into the planet’s orbit on February 9, 2021, to study its weather and atmosphere. Nasa’s science rover Perseverance landed on the red planet on February 18. On April 19, Nasa’s Ingenuity helicopter, which was carried in Perseverance’s belly, made its historic flight - a first on another planet.
Nearly 50 attempts have been made to visit Mars and more than half have failed. The Soviet Mars 3 spacecraft made the first controlled landing in December 1971 but it failed 110 seconds later. In 2011, China made its first attempt to reach Mars with a small orbiter Yinghuo, or Firefly, piggybacking on Russia’s Fobos-Grunt mission. But a launch failure meant it never left Earth’s orbit. The US has landed successfully on Mars nine times, the first almost 45 years ago. Eight spacecraft are now operating around Mars: three American, two European, and one each for China, India and the UAE. The US has operated five rovers on Mars.
Tianwen, which translates as “Heavenly Questions”, is named after the masterpiece of one of China’s greatest poets Qu Yuan (340–278BC). The only Chinese space vehicle to have travelled farther than Tianwen-1 was the Chang’e 2 lunar probe, which went beyond Mars after successfully orbiting the moon in 2010. Contact with it was lost in 2014.
China and Russia have agreed to build an international research station on the moon. Nasa says it wants to build a space outpost in lunar orbit. These lunar stations could potentially be used as staging points for human missions to Mars.
Tianwen-1 orbit’s closest and furthest points from the Martian surface.
The rover is expected to spend three months exploring the surface, sending back photos and data of the site. The Tianwen-1 probe remains in orbit and will act as a relay satellite, sending signals to and from Earth.
May 15, 2021
Soft landing in preselected site in Utopia Planitia plain.
Landing the rover on Mars was a big test for China’s space programme. Zhu Rong – named after the Chinese mythical god of fire and war – successfully landed after “nine minutes of terror”: Nasa's description of the communications blackout during which engineers on Earth have no control or oversight of the rover due to a radio signal delay.
Protected by a heat shield, China’s Mars landing craft carrying the rover had to detach itself from the orbiter 70km above the surface, before hurtling towards the surface at a speed of nearly 5km per second. The descent was slowed with the aid of a parachute and rocket thrusters.
If Zhu Rong succeeds in its mission to collect and send back information about the Martian surface over 90 days, it would make China the first country to carry out an orbiting, landing and roving operation during its first mission to Mars.

After three months in Mars’ orbit, China’s Tianwen-1 unmanned spacecraft successfully deployed its rover Zhu Rong onto the red planet on May 15. The rover’s mission is to explore the Mars landscape, study its surface and atmosphere.

The landing was another milestone in China’s space exploration programme. Only the United States has managed to land and operate a spacecraft on Earth’s neighbour.

The Tianwen-1 is among a series of spacecraft that China plans to launch to explore the other planets in the solar system.

At the end of last year, China’s Chang’e 5 robotic spacecraft landed on the moon and returned to Earth with lunar samples.

May 15, 2021
Soft landing in preselected site in Utopia Planitia plain.

Creative Director Darren Long
Edited by Andrew London

Source: Earth Observation Portal

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