The People’s Republic of China has successfully launched its first probe, Tianwen-1 (Questions to the Sky – 1) to Mars. The launch vehicle “Changzheng-5” (“Long March 5”) was launched from the Wenchang cosmodrome on the island of Hainan. The vehicle is expected to land on the Red Planet in February 2021.
The main goal of the Chinese mission is to detect signs of life on Mars, and also to find out if it can later become a second home for humanity. The actual exploration of the Red Planet will take approximately 90 days, the BBC reports.
It is known that the apparatus is named after the eponymous poem “Questions to Heaven” by the Chinese lyric poet Qu Yuan, who lived in the 4th century BC. e. According to the authors of the mission, this work symbolizes the desire of the Celestial Empire to study nature and the universe.
According to the plan of the PRC mission, the probe will stay in Mars orbit for two to three months, photographing its surface and making the necessary measurements. Only after that will he land on the planet itself.
The probe is expected to land on the so-called Utopia Plain in the northern hemisphere of the Red Planet and, with the help of the rover, begin to explore the geology of the area.
A similar wait-and-see strategy was successfully applied in the American missions Viking 1 and Viking 2 in the 1970s. It allowed engineers to assess atmospheric conditions on the Red Planet before attempting a dangerous descent.
The head of the Hainan spaceport, Zhang Xueyu, told the jubilant technicians of the Martian mission that the rocket launch went as planned.
“According to the aerospace control center, the flight of the Changzheng-5 launch vehicle is proceeding normally, and the probe to Mars has precisely entered its intended orbit,” he said. “I now announce the successful launch of China’s first Mars exploration mission.”
“Tianwen-1” consists of an orbiter and a landing platform with a six-wheeled rover attached to it. Its weight is over 200 kg, and its energy is generated by solar panels. Outwardly, it resembles the American NASA rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which operated on the surface of Mars in the early 2000s.
In addition, the device is equipped with two cameras with a resolution of up to two meters, as well as special tools for searching for deposits of water or ice and analyzing soil composition. Moreover, the rover will relay signals between Earth and spacecraft on the surface of the Red Planet.
However, exploring the surface of Mars is actually only part of the Chinese mission. Exploration of the planet will also be conducted in parallel from orbit using seven remote sensing instruments.
The head of NASA James Bridenstein congratulated the Chinese on the successful launch of the Changzheng-5 launch vehicle, stressing that after this launch, the Celestial Empire came close to entering the community of international scientific researchers of the Red Planet.
Recall that the other day, on July 20, the United Arab Emirates successfully sent their space probe to Mars, marking the first interplanetary mission of the Arab world. Initially, the launch of the device was planned on July 14, but due to unfavorable weather events it was postponed twice. The main goal of the UAE mission is to study the Martian atmosphere and climate. The United States is also expected to send its probe to the Red Planet by the fall of this year.