A few hours ago the Chinese mission Tianwen-1 blasted off atop a Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang center in China. About 36 minutes after the launch, the spacecraft regularly separated from the rocket’s last stage and entered the trajectory that is scheduled to bring it into the planet Mars’ orbit in February 2021. There, a lander and a rover will separate from the space probe that will remain in orbit and will land on the red planet.
The Chinese program for Mars was supposed to begin years ago with the participation in the Russian Fobos-Grunt mission, which included the Yinghuo-1 space probe. Unfortunately, a problem with the rocket prevented the spacecraft from leaving Earth’s orbit with the consequence that they fell back to Earth.
The Chinese, who have been developing a very ambitious space program for several years, also developed a new Martian mission, this time on their own. In recent years, on various occasions they even gave their missions some publicity with live broadcasts. Instead, in this case, there were no official broadcasts, and the success was confirmed by the Chinese space administration through a press release.
The Tianwen-1 mission’s space probe is quite big with a starting mass of approximately 3,175 kg. It’s equipped with a a number of instruments to study Mars both from a geological and atmospheric point of view. This includes the possibility of finding traces of life forms that exist today or that existed in the past, when Mars was much more like the Earth.
If the mission lander succeeds in successfully carrying out its landing maneuver in the great plain of Utopia Planitia, it will released a rover with a mass of about 240 kg equipped with its own instruments to carry out ground studies that will be completed with those of the space probe.
The space probe’s primary mission is scheduled to last at least one Martian year, which means about two Earth years. The rover’s solar panels should last at least 90 days, but the rover could work much longer. A lot depends on the environmental conditions because there’s always the risk that they get covered with sand.
The spacecraft is en route to Mars, where it’s scheduled to arrive in February 2021. The Tianwen-1 mission is ambitious, but its success will go through a series of difficulties. The spacecraft will have to enter the red planet’s orbit correctly and the lander will have to land in one piece in order to release the rover.