The entry into orbit, confirmed this Wednesday by the Chinese space agency (CNSA), and the landing of the Tianwen-1 probe on the Martian surface – some time within the next three months – is one of the milestones that has been marked for this year the ambitious Chinese space program, one of the priorities of Beijing in its aspirations to turn this country into power in the field of innovation in the next three decades.
The Martian is a very ambitious project for China since it includes three vehicles: an orbital segment, a landing vehicle, and a mobile robot, similar to those that this country has twice sent to the Moon. China is going to try to become the first country to send an orbiter, a lander, and a small mobile vehicle to Mars on its first mission to the red planet reports Nuño Domínguez. The Tianwen-1 is heading to Utopia Planitia, in the northern hemisphere, an ideal place to try a soft landing due to the thinness of its soils and because it is a low terrain, so there is more atmosphere with which to break.
In this area, there is also a huge reserve of frozen water in the subsoil, with a capacity some 400 times greater than all the hydrographic basins in Spain and which could be strategic for future manned expeditions. This year is especially symbolic of the government headed by President Xi Jinping, as it will mark a century since the founding of the Communist Party of China. In 2021, China plans to begin the construction of its permanent space station, which will serve as an alternative to the International Space Station (ISS) and which it wants to have completed by the end of 2022. This ambitious project, as revealed by The Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) will orbit the Earth for a decade at an altitude between 350 and 435 kilometers. In size it will be equivalent to the Russian MIR; by mass, 25% greater than the ISS.
Construction, which comes after the launch and docking of the Tiangong 1 and 2 space laboratories, will begin with the launch into space in the first half of the year of the main module, Tianhe, weighing 66 tons and starting from the space base of Wenchang, on the tropical island of Hainan, powered by a Long March 5Brocket. It is expected that, once it is operational, three astronauts can reside in it on long-term missions, although the station could accommodate up to six people in times of relay between crews.
Its occupants -who will also carry out missions outside the module- will work in the laboratories installed in two auxiliary modules, one on each side of the main structure -which will thus have a T-shape-, and which have already been named. : Wentian and Mengtian (“search for heaven” and “dream of heaven”, respectively). Another module will contain the Xuntian Optical Telescope, or “Sky Tour.
Subsequent missions, once the initial module has entered orbit, will include “the launches of Tianzhou-2 cargo ships – with the capacity to transport up to 6,000 kilos, and that will supply the space station – and Shenzhou-12 manned ships,” according to Zhou Jianping, chief designer of the CNSA’s manned missions program, told the state agency Xinhua. It will take a dozen trips, according to the calculations of this institution, to build the space station. The tests of the main module have already been completed, and these months the training of the astronauts who will participate in the project is finished.
The Shenzhou-12s can carry three crew members, but the Chinese space agency is working on the design of a ship with the capacity to carry six or seven astronauts and carry a load of 70 tons to the space station, or 27 tons to the lunar transfer orbit. Further, the CNSA plans to launch other missions for the investigation of asteroids; send another probe to Mars that can collect – as the Chang-5 probe did in 2020 on the far side of the Moon – soil samples from the red planet; and reach the orbit of Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, a goal that has been set for 2029. By 2036, he wants to have installed a base on the Moon, and have a space super generator powered by solar energy that sends to the Earth the electricity it produces. The lunar base “is likely to be set at the south pole of the moon,” Chinese place project chief engineer Wu Weiren told state media. “It will be used only for peaceful purposes and will benefit all parties involved.”