Credit: GlobalLink/Inside Outer Space screengrab


The world eagerly awaits the first images from China’s Tianwen-1 lander/rover now planted on Mars.

The Tianwen-1 lander/rover touched down at a pre-selected landing area in the southern part of Utopia Planitia, a vast plain on the northern hemisphere of Mars, at 07:18 (Beijing Time) on Saturday.

The lander is expected to deploy a ramp for the rover Zhurong in the coming days before the device rolls out onto Mars and starts its exploring. This six-wheeled robot is built to reconnoiter the Red Planet for at least 90 Martian days.

Artwork depicts lander/rover at landing site.
Credit: CAST

Patience required

Meanwhile, the Tianwen-1 orbiter is set to relay data and images from the rover. Patience is required, suggested Zhang Yuhua, deputy chief commander of the Tianwen-1 Mars mission, noting an upcoming orbit correction needed and the process of receiving and sending data from Utopia Planitia back to Earth.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The orbiter is equipped with a directional antenna used to communicate with the Earth. Now free of the lander and the rover, the orbiter serves as a relay satellite to forward byte-by-byte communications between the landing vehicle and Earth.

Scientific orbit

After the Zhurong rover collects and transmits back information about the Martian surface over the next 90 Martian days, the orbiter will enter a “scientific exploration orbit” to carry out short-distance planet observation for one Martian year (about 687 days on Earth).

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The orbiter can collect data from the planet at different orbital heights in different phases to piece together a better understanding of the space environment at the Red Planet.

Go to this informative video from China Central Television (CCTV) that details the relaying of data from the surface of Mars back to Earth.

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