Chinese space probe captures first image of Mars

Chennai: China’s space probe Tianwen-1 has sent back the first image of Mars that it captured from a distance of 2.2 million km from the Red Planet. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has released the image of Mars captured by Tianwen-1.

The probe has travelled about 197 days in orbit, flying about 465 million km. It is currently 184 million km from Earth and 1.1 million km from Mars. All probe systems are in good working condition, the CNSA said.

China launched the Mars probe on 23 July, 2020 on a Long March-5 rocket from the Wenchang Spacecraft launch site in south China’s Hainan province. The Tianwen-1 probe, weighing about 5 tonnes, consists of an orbiter, a lander and a rover.

The probe completed its first orbital correction on 2 August, its second on 20 September and its third on 28 October last year. It is set to enter Mars orbit on 10 February. After entering the Mars orbit, it will spend around three months surveying potential landing sites, using a high-resolution camera to prepare for the landing in May.

The most challenging part of the mission will be the soft landing, an autonomous process of the probe lasting seven to eight minutes, according to the CNSA. The probe will use its aerodynamic shape, parachute and retrorocket to decelerate and buffer legs to touch down.

After the landing, the rover will be released to conduct scientific exploration with an expected lifespan of at least 90 Martian days (about three months on Earth), and the orbiter, with a design life of one Martian year (about 687 days on Earth), will relay communications for the rover while conducting its own scientific detection.

Tianwen-1 means ‘Questions to Heaven’ and comes from a poem written by Qu Yuan (about 340-278 BC), one of the greatest poets of ancient China.


NT Bureau