Several braking maneuvers were necessary before China’s Mars probe “Tianwen 1” reached its destination – the final parking position in the orbit of the Red Planet.
As China’s state news agency Xinhua reported, the probe will attempt to land on Mars in about three months. Until then, scientific investigations will be carried out in orbit. The probe maps the surface of Mars with cameras and other sensors. Further data is also collected – in particular about the probable landing site. The targeted landing site is a huge, rock-strewn plain called Utopia Planitia, on which the US probe “Viking 2” landed in 1976.
With its first Mars landing, the young space nation wants to catch up with the USA, which has already brought several research devices to the planet. China’s solar-powered vehicle, about the size of a golf cart, is said to collect data on underground water and look for clues that the planet may once have hosted microscopic life.
However, China will be the first nation to attempt a landing on its first independent Mars mission. “Tianwen 1” left Earth on July 23rd. At the beginning of February, it sent the first images from around 2.2 million kilometers from Mars to Earth. Tianwen, the title of an ancient poem, means “search for heavenly truth”.
The flight is considered to be one of the most difficult China has ever undertaken. Landing is a big challenge because Mars, unlike the moon, has its own atmosphere. If that succeeds, China would become the second country after the US to place a spacecraft on Mars.
»Perseverance« has already landed successfully
China’s mission is one of three flights to Mars that took off from Earth last summer. The United Arab Emirates and the USA had also sent rockets towards Mars at that time. Last Thursday, NASA’s US rover Perseverance landed near an old Mars river delta in the Jezero crater to look for signs of old microscopic life.