Planetary Exploration of China

Summary

Planetary Exploration of China
Logo of Planetary Exploration of China.png
Emblem of Planetary Exploration of China
Reaching for the Planets
Country China
OrganizationChina National Space Administration (CNSA)
PurposeRobotic Interplanetary mission
StatusOngoing
Program history
Duration2016–present
First flightTianwen-1, July 23, 2020, 04:41 (2020-07-23UTC04:41Z) UTC
Last flightTianwen-1, July 23, 2020, 04:41 (2020-07-23UTC04:41Z) UTC
Successes1
Failures0
Launch site(s)Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site
Vehicle information
Launch vehicle(s)Long March rockets

The Planetary Exploration of China (PEC; Chinese: 中国行星探测; pinyin: Zhōngguó Xíngxīng Tàncè), also known as Tianwen (Chinese: 天问; pinyin: Tīanwèn; lit. 'Questions to Heaven'), is the robotic interplanetary spaceflight program conducted by the China National Space Administration (CNSA). The program aims to explore planets of the Solar System, starting from Mars, and will be expanded to Jupiter and more in the future.[1]

The program was initially known as the Mars mission of China at the early stage.[2] It was later announced as Planetary Exploration of China in April 2020. The series of missions was named Tianwen.[3]

The first mission of the program, Tianwen-1 Mars exploration mission, began on July 23, 2020. A spacecraft, which consisted of an orbiter, a lander, and a rover, was launched by a Long March 5 rocket from Wenchang.[4] The Tianwen-1 was inserted into Mars orbit in February 2021 after a seven-month journey, followed by a successful soft landing of the lander and Zhurong rover on May 14, 2021,[5] making China the second country in the world who successfully soft-landed a fully operational spacecraft on Mars surface after the United States.

Future missions, including near-Earth asteroid sample return, Mars sample return and Jupiter system exploration, have been planned by PEC.[6]

History

Model of Fobos-Grunt presented at the Paris Air Show in 2011. The Chinese satellite Yinghuo-1 is in the center, marked with the label 3.

China began its first interplanetary exploration attempt in 2011 by sending Yinghuo-1, a Mars orbiter, in a joint mission with Russia. Yet it failed to leave Earth orbit due to the failure of Russian launch vehicle.[7]

4179 Toutatis asteroid captured by Chang'e 2.

On December 13, 2012, the Chinese lunar probe Chang'e 2 made a flyby of the asteroid 4179 Toutatis in an extended mission.[8] With a distance of over 7 million kilometers away from Earth, Chang'e 2 became China's first interplanetary probe which tested the limit of China's deep space communication capability.[9]

On April 22, 2016, Xu Dazhe, head of the CNSA, announced that the Mars mission had been approved on January 11, 2016. A probe would be sent to Martian orbit and attempt to land on Mars in 2020.[2]

On November 14, 2019, CNSA invited some foreign embassies and international organizations to witness hovering and obstacle avoidance test for Mars Lander of China's first Mars exploration mission at the extraterrestrial celestial landing test site. It was the first public appearance of China's Mars exploration mission.[10]

On April 24, 2020, Planetary Exploration of China was formally announced by CNSA, along with the name "Tianwen" and emblem of the program.[11] The first mission of the program, the Mars mission to be carried out in 2020, was named Tianwen-1.[3]

The first mission of the program, Tianwen-1 Mars exploration mission, was launched on July 23, 2020.[4] The Tianwen-1 was inserted into Mars orbit in February 2021 after a seven-month journey, followed by a successful soft landing of the lander and Zhurong rover on May 14, 2021.[5] The Zhurong rover was deployed onto the Martian surface from its landing platform and began its exploratory mission on May 22. On June 1, CNSA released multiple high-resolution images taken on Martian surface, confirming the success of the mission.[12]

On June 12, 2021, CNSA announced the future plans for near-Earth asteroid sample return, Mars sample return and Jupiter system exploration.[13]

Name and emblem

The program's name "Tianwen", which literally means "questions to heaven", derived from the eponymous poem by the famous ancient poet Qu Yuan of the state of Chu during the Warring States period (475–221 BC). The name represents the Chinese people's relentless pursuit of truth, the country's cultural inheritance of its understanding of nature and universe, as well as the unending explorations in science and technology.[3]

The emblem of PEC and its missions consist of eight planets in the Solar System and their orbits in the shape of the Latin letter 'c', referring to China, cooperation, and the cosmic velocity required to undertake planetary exploration.[1]

Launch facilities

Launch of Tianwen-1 from Wenchang on July 23, 2020.
Launch of Tianwen-1 from Wenchang on July 23, 2020.

Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site

Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site is China's newest space vehicle launch facility. It is the only launch site in China capable of launching China's most powerful rocket Long March 5, which offers the maximum payload capacity into deep space.

Tianwen-1, the first mission of PEC, was launched from Wenchang.

Supporting facilities

Neuquén ground station of the Chinese Deep Space Network.
Neuquén ground station of the Chinese Deep Space Network.

Monitoring and control center

Chinese deep space network

The deep space monitoring and control network provides vital tracking, telemetry and command (TT&C) capability to the interplanetary spaceflights. Participating facilities include:[15][16]

  • Xi'an Satellite Control Center is the facility that manages and operates the Chinese Deep Space Network.
  • Jiamusi ground station with one 66-meter antenna locates in Jiamusi, Heilongjiang, the easternmost of China, operational since 2012.
  • Kashgar ground station with four 35-meter antenna array locates in Kashgar, Xinjiang, the westernmost of China, operational since 2012 and upgraded in 2020.
  • Neuquén ground station with one 35-meter antenna locates Neuquén, Argentina, operational since 2017.
Landing test undergoing in extraterrestrial celestial landing test site.
Landing test undergoing in extraterrestrial celestial landing test site.

Extraterrestrial celestial landing test site

Located in Huailai County, Hebei, the extraterrestrial celestial landing test site is the largest facility of the same kind in Asia.[10]

The facility consists of six 140-meter tall cranes and one central platform, which is connected with the cranes by 36 cables. The movement of the platform provides simulation of the Mars gravity environment to the lander hung below it. The ground of is paved with special material, which can be manipulated to form the shapes of pits or slopes.[17]

The extraterrestrial celestial landing test site is used to test the lander's capability of hovering, obstacle avoidance and slowing down.

Current and future missions

Tianwen-1

The "group photo" of Zhurong rover and Tianwen-1 lander taken by a remote camera dropped by Zhurong.

As China's first independent Mars exploration mission, Tianwen-1 set out to accomplish three major goals simultaneously: orbiting, landing on, and roving Mars via a single set of spacecraft.[18] On July 23, 2020, the Tianwen-1 spacecraft stack, consisting of an orbiter, a lander, a rover, a deployable and a remote camera launched from Wenchang, marking the beginning of the mission.[4]

After a 202-day journey through interplanetary space, Tianwen-1 inserted itself into Martian orbit on February 10, 2021, thereby becoming China's first Mars orbiter. During this long journey, it deployed the deployable camera in September 2020 whose imagery confirmed the successful launch and Mars transit phase of the spacecraft.[19] Subsequently, it performed several orbital maneuvers and began surveying target landing sites on Mars in preparation for the coming landing attempt.

On May 14, 2021, the lander and the Zhurong rover separated from Tianwen-1's orbiter. After experiencing Mars atmospheric entry that lasted about nine minutes, the lander and rover made a successful soft landing in the Utopia Planitia region of Mars.[5] With the landing, China became the second country to operate a fully functional spacecraft on Martian surface, after the United States.

On May 22, 2021, the Zhurong rover deployed onto the Martian surface from its landing platform and began its exploratory mission. During its deployment, the Rover's instrument, Mars Climatic Station (MCS), recorded the sound, acting as the second Martian sound instrument to record Martian sounds successfully after Mars 2020 Perseverance rover's microphones. During this journey it deployed the remote selfie camera on 1 June, 2021, whose imagery confirmed the successful landing of the rover and lander.[12]

Near-Earth asteroid sample-return and main-belt comet orbiter mission (planned)

The mission to return samples from a near-Earth asteroid and to orbit a main-belt comet is planned to be conducted around 2025, according to CNSA announcement on June 12, 2021.[6]

Mars sample-return mission (planned)

On December 17, 2020, China successfully completed the Chang'e 5 lunar sample return mission.[20] During the press conference after the mission, Wu Yanhua, the vice administrator of CNSA, disclosed that a Mars sample return mission will be carried out as planned later in the decade.[21]

On June 12, 2021, CNSA disclosed the plan for a Mars sample-return mission to be conducted in 2030 (launched in 2028).[6]

Mars crewed mission (planned)

According to Wang Xiaojun, head of the state-owned China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, China plans to send its first crew to Mars and planning base for regular crewed missions, primary launches to Mars are planned for 2033, 2035, 2037, 2041 and will shift to sustaining presence on mars in near future.[22]

Jupiter system exploration mission (planned)

China is planning a mission to Jupiter and possibly to the Jovian moon Callisto. One of two possible mission architectures ("Jupiter Callisto Orbiter" and "Jupiter System Observer") would likely be launched in 2029 and arrive at the Jovian system in 2035, after one Venus flyby and two Earth flybys.[23]

List of missions

Mars missions

Mission Launch date
(UTC)
Launch site Launch vehicle Spacecraft Orbital insertion date
(UTC)
Landing date
(UTC)
Landing location Operational time Status Notes
Tianwen-1 July 23, 2020
04:41:15
Wenchang Long March 5 Tianwen-1 orbiter February 10, 2021
11:52
249 days Operational
Tianwen-1 lander May 14, 2021
23:18
Utopia Planitia
25°06′N 109°54′E / 25.1°N 109.9°E / 25.1; 109.9
3 hours Success No scientific payload on lander. Reaches end of designed lifespan after landing.
Zhurong rover 155 days Operational Deployed onto the Martian surface on May 22, 2021.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Jones, Andrew (April 24, 2020). "China's Mars mission named Tianwen-1, appears on track for July launch". SpaceNews. Retrieved May 21, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Zhao, Lei (April 23, 2016). "Probe of Mars set for 2020". China Daily. Archived from the original on April 23, 2016. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Zhao, Lei (April 24, 2020). "China's first Mars mission named Tianwen 1". China Daily. Archived from the original on January 25, 2021. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Jones, Andrew (July 23, 2020). "Tianwen-1 launches for Mars, marking dawn of Chinese interplanetary exploration". SpaceNews. Retrieved May 21, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c Jones, Andrew (May 14, 2021). "China's Zhurong Mars rover lands safely in Utopia Planitia". SpaceNews. Retrieved May 21, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c "China making plans for future space exploration: official". China Daily. June 13, 2021. Archived from the original on June 13, 2021. Retrieved June 13, 2021.
  7. ^ Brown, Mark (7 February 2012). "Programming glitch, not radiation or satellites, doomed Phobos-Grunt". Wired UK. Archived from the original on 10 February 2012. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
  8. ^ David, Leonard (December 17, 2012). "Chinese Spacecraft Flies by Asteroid Toutatis". Space.com. Archived from the original on November 29, 2020. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  9. ^ "嫦娥二号再现"神奇" 人类首次近距离拍摄"图塔蒂斯"". Guangming Daily (in Chinese). December 16, 2012. Retrieved May 22, 2021 – via Xinhua News Agency.
  10. ^ a b "CNSA invited embassies and media to witness hovering and obstacle avoidance test for Mars Lander of China's first Mars exploration mission". cnsa.gov.cn. China National Space Administration. November 14, 2019. Retrieved May 23, 2021.
  11. ^ 官宣 | 中国首次火星探测任务名称和图形标识正式发布 (in Chinese). China National Space Administration. April 24, 2020. Retrieved May 22, 2021 – via Bilibili.
  12. ^ a b Zhao, Lei (May 22, 2020). "China's Zhurong rover moves onto Martian surface to begin scientific operations". China Daily. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  13. ^ "国家航天局举办新闻发布会 介绍我国首次火星探测任务情况" (Press release) (in Chinese). China National Space Administration. June 12, 2021. Retrieved June 13, 2021 – via gov.cn.
  14. ^ "北京航天飞行控制中心周密做好我国首次火星探测飞控任务准备" (in Chinese). Xinhua News Agency. July 20, 2020. Retrieved May 23, 2021.
  15. ^ "China's deep space monitoring network offers support for Mars probe". Xinhua News Agency. July 24, 2020. Retrieved May 23, 2021.
  16. ^ "China launches antenna array for Mars, moon missions". China Daily. Xinhua News Agency. November 19, 2020. Retrieved May 23, 2021.
  17. ^ Feng, Hua (November 14, 2019). "麻辣财经:中国火星探测首亮相,咱们离火星还有多远?". hubpd.com (in Chinese). People's Daily Media Innovation. Retrieved May 23, 2021.
  18. ^ Zhao, Lei (July 23, 2020). "China embarks on first independent mission to Mars". China Daily. Archived from the original on August 16, 2020. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  19. ^ Jones, Andrew (February 10, 2021). "China's Tianwen-1 enters orbit around Mars". SpaceNews. Retrieved May 21, 2021.
  20. ^ Jones, Andrew (December 16, 2020). "China recovers Chang'e-5 moon samples after complex 23-day mission". SpaceNews. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  21. ^ "国务院新闻办就探月工程嫦娥五号任务有关情况举行发布会" (Press release) (in Chinese). State Council Information Office. December 17, 2020. Archived from the original on May 22, 2021. Retrieved May 22, 2021 – via gov.cn.
  22. ^ "China plans for first manned mission to Mars in 2033".
  23. ^ Jones, Andrew (January 12, 2021). "Jupiter Mission by China Could Include Callisto Landing". planetary.org. The Planetary Society. Retrieved May 22, 2021.