Tianwen-1 undergoing tests in 2019. The silver capsule on top houses the lander and rover, and the gold bottom half with the rocket engine is the orbiter.
|Names||Huoxing-1 (火星-1) (2018–2020)|
|Mission type||Planetary science with an orbiter, lander and rover|
|Mission duration||131 days, 18 hours, 14 minutes (since launch)|
Orbiter: 2 Earth years (planned)
Rover: 90 sols (planned)
|Spacecraft type||Orbiter, lander, rover|
|Manufacturer||China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)|
|Launch mass||Total: 5,000 kg (11,000 lb)|
Orbiter: 3,175 kg (7,000 lb)
Rover：240 kg (530 lb)
|Dimensions||Rover: 2.0 × 1.65 × 1.85 metres|
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||23 July 2020, 04:41:15 UTC |
|Rocket||Long March 5|
|Launch site||Wenchang, LC-101|
|Contractor||China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation|
|Orbital insertion||11 to 24 February 2021 (planned)|
|Landing date||23 April 2021 (proposed)|
|Landing site||Utopia Planitia|
|Landing date||After 23 April 2021 (proposed)|
|Landing site||Utopia Planitia|
Chinese Planetary Exploration
(Chinese: 中国行星探测) Mars logo
Tianwen-1 (TW-1) is an interplanetary mission to Mars by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) to send a robotic spacecraft, which consists of an orbiter, deployable camera, lander and a rover. The mission was successfully launched from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on 23 July 2020 with a Long March 5 heavy-lift rocket, and is currently en route to Mars, having already traveled 29.4 million kilometers as of 9 October, 2020. Tianwen has so far completed two mid-course orbital corrections and performed self diagnostics on multiple payloads. The spacecraft has begun to conduct scientific operations with the Mars Energetic Particle Analyzer, mounted on the orbiter, which has already transmitted data back to ground control. Its objectives are to search for evidence of both current and past life, and to assess the planet's environment.
The name "Tianwen" (simplified Chinese: 天问; traditional Chinese: 天問; lit.: 'heavenly questions') comes from the long poem of the same name written by Qu Yuan (about 340–278 BC), one of the greatest poets of Ancient China. It is a poem of a series of questions starting with how the universe was created.
Tianwen-1 was the second of three space missions sent toward Mars during the July 2020 Mars launch window, with missions also launched by the national space agencies of the United Arab Emirates (Hope orbiter) and the United States (Mars 2020, with the Perseverance rover and an attached helicopter drone). All three are expected to arrive at Mars in February 2021.
China's Mars program started in partnership with Russia. In November 2011, the Russian spacecraft Fobos-Grunt, destined for Mars and Phobos, was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome. The Russian spacecraft carried with it an attached secondary spacecraft, the Yinghuo-1, which was intended to become China's first Mars orbiter (Fobos-Grunt also carried experiments from The Planetary Society and Bulgaria). However, Fobos-Grunt's main propulsion unit failed to boost the Mars-bound stack from its initial Earth parking orbit and the combined multinational spacecraft and experiments eventually reentered Earth's atmosphere in January 2012. China subsequently began an independent Mars project and the current mission, which was formally approved by Chinese authorities in early 2016, is the result.
The new Chinese Mars spacecraft, consisting of an orbiter and a lander with an attached rover, is developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) and managed by the National Space Science Centre (NSSC) in Beijing. The lander portion of the spacecraft will use a parachute and a retrorocket in order to achieve landing on the Martian surface. If the landing is successful, the lander would then release a rover. This rover will be powered by solar panels and is expected to probe the Martian surface with radar and to perform chemical analyses on the soil; it would also look for biomolecules and biosignatures.
The TW-1 Deployable Camera (T.D.C.) deployed from the orbiter in September while en route to Mars. Its mission was to photograph the Tianwen-1 orbiter and aeroshell. It took two photos, the T.D.C. spacecraft will fly by Mars.
The aims of the mission may include the following: find evidence for current and past life, produce Martian surface maps, characterize Martian soil composition and water ice distribution, examine the Martian atmosphere, and in particular, its ionosphere, among others. Simulated Martian landings have been performed as part of mission preparations by the Beijing Institute of Space Mechanics and Electricity.
The current Mars mission also would serve as a demonstration of technology that will be needed for an anticipated Chinese Mars sample-return mission proposed for the 2030s. There was also a plan that involved using the current mission to cache Martian rock and soil samples for retrieval by the later sample-return mission.
In late 2019, the Xi'an Aerospace Propulsion Institute, a subsidiary of CASC, stated that the performance and control of the future spacecraft's propulsion system has been verified and had passed all requisite pre-flight tests, including tests for hovering, hazard avoidance, deceleration, and landing. The main component of the lander's propulsion system consists of a single engine that provides 7500 newtons of thrust. The spacecraft's supersonic parachute system had also been successfully tested previously.
CNSA initially focused on the Chryse Planitia and on the Elysium Mons regions of Mars in its search for possible landing sites for the lander and its associated rover. However, in September 2019, during a joint meeting in Geneva of the European Planetary Science Congress-Division for Planetary Sciences, Chinese presenters announced that two preliminary sites in the Utopia Planitia region of Mars have instead been chosen for the anticipated landing attempt, with each site having a landing ellipse of approximately 100 by 40 kilometres.
In July 2020, CNSA provided landing coordinates of 110.318 degrees east longitude and 24.748 degrees north latitude, within the southern portion of Utopia Planitia as the specific primary landing site. The area appears to provide a relatively safe place for a landing attempt but is also of great scientific interest, according to Alfred McEwen, director of the Planetary Image Research Laboratory at the University of Arizona.
By 23 January 2020 the Long March 5 Y4 rocket's hydrogen-oxygen engine had completed a 100-seconds test, which was the last engine test prior to the final assembly of the carrier rocket. It successfully launched on 23 July 2020.
To achieve the scientific objectives of the mission, the Tianwen-1 orbiter and rover are equipped with 13 instruments:
Argentina's CONAE is collaborating on Tianwen-1 by way of a Chinese-run tracking station installed in Las Lajas, Neuquén. The facility played a previous role in China's landing of the Chang'e-4 spacecraft on the far side of the moon in January 2019.
France's Institute for Research in Astrophysics and Planetology (IRAP) in Toulouse is collaborating on the Tianwen-1 rover. Sylvestre Maurice of IRAP said, "For their Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) instrument, we have delivered a calibration target that is a French duplicate of a target which is on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. The idea is to see how the two datasets compare."
Austria's Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) aided in the development of a magnetometer installed on the Chinese Mars orbiter. The Space Research Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Graz has confirmed the group's contribution to the Tianwen-1 magnetometer and helped with the calibration of the flight instrument.
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Phobos-Grunt fragments have crashed down in the Pacific Ocean