Credit: CGTN

China’s first Mars exploration mission, named Tianwen-1, is on schedule for a July liftoff, joining NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover and the United Arab Emirates’ Hope Mars orbiter during the Mars launch window this July.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

In a People’s Daily Online report, Tianwen-1 aims to orbit, land and rove in one go to conduct a global and comprehensive exploration of Mars and carry out detailed surveys of key areas of the Martian surface, said Zhao Xiaojin, Party chief of the China Academy of Space Technology.

China’s Mars Orbiter, Lander, Rover effort.
Credit: China Aerospace Technology Corporation

No country has completed such an undertaking in its exploration of the red planet, Zhao noted, adding that this means the Chinese mission faces unprecedented challenges.

Zhao added that Tianwen-1 along with the combined Mars orbiter and lander is expected to be launched by a Long March 5 Y4 carrier rocket.

China is exploring a new path for Mars exploration rather than repeating what other countries have already done, Zhao said in the new report, which demonstrates the country’s technological development and great confidence in its aerospace sector.

China’s Mars mission elements.
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Close the gap

If the mission is successful, it will close the gap in deep space exploration technology between China and other aerospace powers such as the U.S. and Russia, said Bao Weimin, head of science and technology at China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp and academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

According to Bao, the mission has laid out five scientific objectives, mainly related to the study of Mars’ space environment, its physical features and its surface structure.

China’s Mars landing regions.
Courtesy: James Head

The biggest challenge is the “seven minutes of terror”, a phrase describing the entry, descent, and landing process. During this period, the landing segment for the rover is required to reduce its speed from 20,000 kilometers per hour to zero.

China also plans to conduct a Mars sample return mission by around 2030, as well as a Jovian System probe mission, said Bao.

In a related story, Xinhua news agency reports that Wan Weixing died of illness in Beijing at the age of 62. Wan was the lead scientist of China’s Mars exploration mission.

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