China has once again marked a new achievement in the space race by ensuring that the first spacecraft that sends to Mars has managed to enter its orbit, as confirmed by sources from the National Space Administration of China (CNSA) through the Weibo social network. The maneuver has been carried out autonomously by the on-board computers since the ten-minute delay in communications prevents the probe from being directly guided by ground engineers.
The mission ‘Tianwen-1’, which means ‘Questions to Heaven’ about a poem by author Qu Yuan (who lived around 340 and 278 BC), took off on July 23, 2020, in a rocket Long March 5 from the Wenchang Space Center (China). The ship, weighing about five tons, traveled almost 500 million kilometers to Martian orbit and a few days ago it sent the first image of the red planet to show off the power of its cameras: a black and white photograph at 2.2 million kilometers in which geological formations were already appreciated in our neighbor.
With the secrecy that characterizes its missions, unlike the United Arab Emirates -which carried out a showy show to celebrate its success this Tuesday, broadcasting it via streaming- or the US -whose mission ‘Mars 2020’ has been known since For months it will attempt the landing maneuver next Thursday around 22 Spanish times , China did not reveal the exact date on which the insertion maneuver would be carried out in the Martian orbit, only that it would be “around the 10th of February ”, although a few hours earlier it was announced that it would be broadcast live on the channel of the Chinese news agency CCTV4.
The spacecraft fired one of its engines to carry out “an orbital correction” last Friday and was expected to slow down to 20,000 kilometers per hour to be “captured by Martian gravity”, similar to what happened yesterday. with the Emirati probe ‘Hope’. The ship keeps a lander, a rover, and an orbiter inside. It will be the latter who, from now on, will analyze the terrain with a high-resolution camera to decide which is the most propitious place for landing – predictably at the beginning of May – somewhere in Utopia Planitia, a plain in the northern hemisphere that also it is believed to keep a huge reserve of frozen water in the subsoil.
If the operation, classified as high risk (60% of the missions sent to Mars have failed so far), is successful, the rover will operate for at least 90 Martian days (about three Earth months) to study the geology of our neighbor, the distribution of icy water on the surface, the ionosphere and the climate, in addition to positioning itself as one of the greatest space powers, since with its first incursion on Mars it will have been the second country to place a rover on the Martian surface. The Tianwen-1 mission is the first step for the country to independently carry out interplanetary exploration,” they say from the National Space Administration of China (CNSA). “It will orbit, land, and patrol Mars,” they add in a statement posted on their website.