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Raumfahrt - China Tianwen-1 Mars mission -Update-6

3.12.2021

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Chinese, European Mars probes complete in-orbit relay communication test

China's Mars probe Tianwen-1 and the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Mars Express spacecraft have successfully performed an in-orbit relay communication test, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said on Wednesday.

China's Mars rover Zhurong sent test data to Mars Express over a distance of approximately 4,000 kilometers. The communication lasted 10 minutes.

Mars Express received the data and forwarded it to the ESA's deep space tracking station. After receiving the data, the station sent it to the European Space Operations Center (ESOC), and the ESOC then forwarded the data to the Beijing Aerospace Control Center.

Data analysis results show that the relay communication equipment interfaces of Zhurong and Mars Express match and conform to international standards, and the contents of the transmitted data are complete and correct.

The Tianwen-1 team and the Mars Express team will undertake further cooperation in scientific data relay communication, according to the CNSA. Enditem

Quelle: Xinhua

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A one-way phone call at Mars

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In brief

This November, ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft carried out a series of experimental communication tests with the Chinese (CNSA) Zhurong Mars rover. Mars Express successfully caught data sent up ‘in the blind’ by the rover and relayed them to Earth where they were forwarded to the Zhurong team in China.

In-depth

13:07 CET, 7 November, Utopia Planitia. The Zhurong rover, commanded by the Tianwen-1 orbiter, points its radio up at the Martian sky. Any minute now, ESA’s Mars Express will begin to pass overhead. Zhurong starts transmitting a signal up into space. It has no way of knowing if its message is being received.

Landers and rovers on Mars gather data that help scientists answer fundamental questions about the geology, atmosphere, surface environment, history of water and potential for life on the Red Planet.

To get these insights to Earth, they first transmit the data up to spacecraft in orbit around Mars. These orbiters then use their much larger, more powerful transmitters to ‘relay’ the data across space to Earth.

Mars Express
Mars Express

“Normally, an orbiter like ESA’s Mars Express first sends down a hail signal to a rover as a ‘hello’,” says James Godfrey, Mars Express Spacecraft Operations Manager.

“The rover then sends back a response to establish stable communications and begin the two-way exchange of information. But this relies on the rover’s radio system being compatible with the orbiter’s.”

As Mars Express transmits its ‘hello’ signal using communication frequencies that are different from those the Chinese Zhurong Mars rover receives, two-way communication is not possible.

But in the other direction, Zhurong can transmit a signal using a frequency that Mars Express can receive.

The relay radio on Mars Express has a mode that allows this one-way communication – communication ‘in the blind’ where the sender can’t be sure if their signal is being received – but until now, the technique hadn’t been tested on the spacecraft.

ESA Mars Express relays data from CNSA Zhurong rover
ESA Mars Express relays data from CNSA Zhurong rover

In November, ESA’s Mars Express and CNSA’s Zhurong teams carried out a series of experimental communication tests in which Mars Express used this ‘in the blind’ mode to listen for signals sent to it by the Zhurong Rover.

The experiments culminated in a successful test on 20 November.

“Mars Express successfully received the signals sent by the rover, and our colleagues in the Zhurong team confirmed that all the data arrived on Earth in very good quality.” says ESA’s Gerhard Billig.

“We’re looking forward to carrying out more tests in the future to continue to experiment and further improve this method of communicating between space missions.”

The data relayed by Mars Express arrived on Earth at ESA’s ESOC space operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany, via deep-space communication antennas. From there, these data were forwarded to the Zhurong team at the Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center, who confirmed the success of the test.

Quelle: ESA

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Update: 2.01.2022

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China releases new Mars images on New Year's Day

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Photo released on Jan. 1, 2022 by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) shows the surface landscape taken by the rover Zhurong. (CNSA/Handout via Xinhua)

China released on the first day of 2022 a group of new Mars images taken by the Tianwen-1 probe.

These new images showed diverse working conditions of the probe's orbiter and rover, as well as the Mars surface topography obtained by them, said the China National Space Administration.

The images include the group photo of the orbiter and Mars, closeup of the orbiter, ice sheet on Mars' north pole area, surface landscape taken by the rover Zhurong.

China's Tianwen-1 mission, consisting of an orbiter, a lander and a rover, was launched on July 23, 2020. Enditem

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Photo released on Jan. 1, 2022 by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) shows the group photo of the orbiter and Mars. (CNSA/Handout via Xinhua)

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Photo released on Jan. 1, 2022 by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) shows the ice sheet on Mars' north pole area. (CNSA/Handout via Xinhua)

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Photo released on Jan. 1, 2022 by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) shows the closeup of the orbiter. (CNSA/Handout via Xinhua)
Quelle: Xinhua
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Update: 2.02.2022
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China releases video of spacecraft orbiting Mars for Lunar New Year

Ride along in the Red Planet’s orbit

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China’s first Mars orbiter, Tianwen-1, is showing off its journey around the Red Planet in a newly released selfie video ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year. The brief clip, released Monday by the China National Space Administration, shows a good portion of the spacecraft’s body, engines, and solar array zooming through space, with portions of Mars’ surface appearing in the background.

The Tianwen-1 orbiter has been circling Mars for nearly a year now. After launching from China in July of 2020, the vehicle inserted itself into the planet’s orbit in February of 2021. The spacecraft is China’s first mission to successfully reach the Red Planet’s orbit, making the nation one of just a handful of countries to explore Mars robotically. Tianwen-1 came to Mars bundled together with a lander and a rover, both of which successfully landed on the planet’s surface in May of last year.

Typically, China is fairly opaque when it comes to its spaceflight missions, releasing only limited information about launches and its spacecraft. But the country has released some enticing pictures of the Tianwen-1 mission recently. This isn’t even Tianwen-1’s first selfie. In early January, the orbiter released a small spacecraft with a camera onboard, which snapped pictures of Tianwen-1 with a very large Mars in the background. Tianwen-1 also captured a picture of itself during its transit to Mars by releasing another spacecraft with a camera on it that captured the vehicle encased in its protective shell. This recent video was taken by a camera attached to Tianwen-1.

Spacecraft selfies have been a delightful aspect of space missions baked into vehicles for decades. NASA’s various Mars rovers, including Curiosity and Perseverance, have created beautiful selfie mosaics of themselves and the Martian landscape. China’s rover also snapped a picture of itself on the Martian surface after its landing last year. Additionally, when NASA landed its Insight lander on Mars, the space agency sent two small satellites that rode along with the vehicle, one of which also captured a selfie of itself while in space with Mars in the background.

Quelle: THE VERGE 
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Update: 12.03.2022
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China's Zhurong rover reveals how weather and ancient water altered rocks on Mars

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