Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

En route to the Red Planet, China’s Mars probe Tianwen-1 has successfully carried out its second orbital correction on Sunday, using four of its 120N engines working for 20 seconds.

Tianwen-1, which means “Questions to Heaven,” has traveled about 60 days in orbit since liftoff on July 23.

All of the probe’s systems continue to be in good condition, said the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Minor correction

The minor orbital correction was carried out to ensure the probe is on a correct flight path to reach Mars in February of next year.

On August 2, Tianwen-1 carried out its first orbital correction.

According to the CNSA, next-up for the Mars spacecraft, a deep space maneuver in October; a larger orbital control action that will adjust the inclination and size of the probe’s orbit.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Given the probe’s current distance from Earth, China Central Television (CCTV) reports that one-way communication is delayed by about a minute. The probe will continue traveling away from Earth at roughly 186,411 miles (300,000 kilometers) per day, posing more challenges in communication.

China’s three-in-one mission: An orbiter, lander, and rover.
Credit: Wan, W.X., Wang, C., Li, C.L. et al.

Deep space maneuver

“During the probe’s flight along the Earth-Mars transfer orbit, it won’t directly enter the Mars’ orbit, but has to go through a deep space maneuver first. If the deep space maneuver is completed accurately, the probe can reach the Mars even without further orbital corrections,” Dong Jie, chief designer of the Tianwen-1 lander at the China Academy of Space Technology told CCTV.

“During our implementation procedures, we have confirmed the content of every order and the timing of sending them to the probe,” Dong added. “If anything goes wrong with the change of orbit, we have already made plans to resolve it.”

Tianwen-1 is designed to orbit the Red Planet for several months, then in May dispatch a lander that then deploys a rover. If successful, attempting all these parts of Mars exploration in a single mission would be a first.

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