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



China launches its first Marsbound mission, Tianwen 1, which carries an ambitious orbiter, lander, and rover package.


A Long March 5 rocket roared to life early this morning at 12:41 a.m. EDT / 4:41 UT, launching from the Wenchang Space Center in the Hainan province of China. It carried the second Mars mission of 2020: Tianwen 1. (The spacecraft's name means “questions to heaven,” from a poem by Chinese poet Qu Yuan.)

“The Tianwen 1 mission is a major landmark project in the progress of building China’s aerospace power, and a milestone project for China’s aerospace to go further and deeper into space,” says Wu Yangsheng (China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation) in a press release.

The mission is an ambitious first for any space agency: an orbiter, lander, and rover all in one package. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) provided only sparse information about the mission leading up to and during the launch, which was live-streamed by offsite spectators and the national Chinese broadcast network CCTV.

Chinese officials lifted the news blackout shortly 36 minutes after launch and declared that Tianwen 1 had successfully entered a heliocentric trajectory for a seven-month journey to the Red Planet.

This was the fifth launch for China’s heavy-lift Long March 5 rocket, needed to hoist the 3,400 kg (7,500 lb) spacecraft into a Marsbound trajectory. The Long March 5 is China’s answer to staying competitive with SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, currently in operation, and NASA’s SLS rocket, slated to launch in late 2021. While a Long March 5 rocket failed shortly after a July 2017 launch, due to a first stage engine malfunction, the revamped rocket was back in business after a test run in late 2019.

Now, the stage is set for China to perform another first for the nation. In February 2021, the spacecraft will enter an elliptical polar orbit around Mars that's 265 by 12,000 kilometers (165 by 7,500 miles). From that vantage point, Tianwen 1 will survey the Red Planet with a suite of instruments, including a medium- and high-resolution camera, energetic and neutral particle analyzers, a magnetometer, a mineralogy spectrometer, and survey radar.

Of prime interest for the orbiter is a survey of the Utopia Planitia region of Mars, where the mission's lander and rover are expected to touch down. This is the same region that NASA’s Viking 2 visited in 1976. About two to three months after orbital insertion, the lander will separate from the orbiter and descend for an attempted soft-landing on Mars.

A successful landing would make China the third nation to do so, after NASA, which has carried out eight successful landings, and the Soviet Union, whose Mars 3 lander operated for a scant 110 seconds on the surface before falling silent.

China’s last bid for Mars, the Yinghuo 1 spacecraft, burned up along with the doomed Russian Phobos-Grunt mission when it reentered the Earth’s atmosphere on January 15, 2012. China has had more success on the Moon, where it has fielded two rovers: Chang’e 3, landed in Mare Imbrium in 2013 and Chang'e 4 made the first lunar farside landing in January 2019. China hopes to perform a lunar sample return with its Chang’e 5 mission later this year.

The Utopia Planitia region is suspected of containing a huge reservoir of water ice. The solar-powered rover is expected to operate for 90 days on the Martian surface and has a suite of cameras and instruments, including the first ground-penetrating radar ever fielded on the surface of Mars.

An artist's conception of China's Tianwen-1 lander and rover on Mars.
/ China's State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.

Much of what we know about the technical and scientific aspects of the Tianwen-1 mission comes from a paper published by chief scientist Wan Weixing in Nature Astronomy. Find out more about the mission's goals in Emily Lakdawalla's feature article, "Three Missions Head for Mars."



China’s successful launch comes just a few days after United Arab Emirates launch of their Hope orbiter on Monday. Next up in the Mars launch queue is NASA’s Perseverance rover, set to launch from Cape Canaveral on July 30th.

The Tianwen 1 team with the spacecraft

The launch comes at a time of strained relations between the U.S. and China. China is one of the few major players in the modern space exploration game that does not partner with the United States, due mainly to standing International Traffic in Arms Regulations restrictions, which ban the U.S. from sharing technology with China.

It will be exciting to watch the dawn of 2021, as three new missions arrive at the Red Planet. Congratulations to the Tianwen 1 team on launching an ambitious all-in-one package to explore Mars.

Quelle: Sky&Telescope


China's probe radar to explore internal structure of Mars

After landing on Mars, China's Tianwen-1 probe will detect the surface and internal structure of the red planet by using its onboard radar equipment.

A ground-penetrating radar, a key probe instrument, was developed by the Aerospace Information Research Institute under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It is expected to survey the Martian soil and ice, and to collect data about the structure beneath the planet's surface at depths of between 10 and 100 meters.

China launched its first Mars probe, Tianwen-1, on Thursday, kicking off the country's independent planetary exploration mission.

According to scientists, the Mars probe will take about seven months to land on the planet. Enditem

Quelle: Xinhua


Spotlight: China's first Mars mission attracts global attention

China's successful launch of its first Mars mission on Thursday attracted global attention as the country has taken the first step in its planetary exploration of the solar system.

The Mars probe aims to complete orbiting, landing and roving in one mission.

The mission -- consisting of an orbiter, a lander, and a rover -- is "the most ambitious thing one could do on a first attempt," says John Logsdon, a space policy expert at George Washington University.

Chinese scientists are preparing for more missions in the Tianwen series, including ventures to return rock samples from Mars and an asteroid, to perform a flyby of Jupiter and to explore the margins of the sun's vast heliosphere. But if Tianwen-1 reaches Mars as planned, "it will put China in the space exploration business in a big way," said Logsdon.

"Mars mission would put China among space leaders ... A Mars landing is among the most challenging feats in spaceflight," said the Science magazine in a news piece published on June 25.

China's first Mars mission is named Tianwen-1, which literally 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. The name signifies the Chinese nation's perseverance in pursuing truth and science and exploring nature and the universe, said the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

"Tianwen-1 -- 'quest for heavenly truth' -- consists of not only an orbiter, but also a lander and a rover, a trifecta no other nation has accomplished on its first Mars bid," said the Science article.

A Long March-5 rocket, China's largest launch vehicle carrying the spacecraft with a mass of about five tons, soared into the sky from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on the coast of southern China's island province of Hainan at 12:41 p.m. (Beijing Time).

About 36 minutes later, the spacecraft, including an orbiter and a rover, was sent into the Earth-Mars transfer orbit, embarking on an almost seven-month journey to the red planet, according to the CNSA.

"Tianwen-1 is going to orbit, land and release a rover all on the very first try, and coordinate observations with an orbiter. No planetary missions have ever been implemented in this way. If successful, it would signify a major technical breakthrough," said an opinion piece on Nature, a world-renown weekly international science and technology journal.

Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany's international broadcaster, said the mission to Mars is "ambitious," not for the inclusion of an orbiter and a Mars rover, but also because it has only taken China several years from the initial planning and mission design to launch in July 2020.

"As with many Mars missions, Tianwen-1 is about learning more about the Red Planet and, through that, for scientists to learn more about our own planet," the DW added.

The scientific goals of Tianwen-1 include mapping the morphology and geological structure, investigating surface soil characteristics and water-ice distribution, analyzing the surface material composition, measuring the ionosphere and the characteristics of the Martian climate and environment at the surface, and perceiving the physical fields and internal structure of Mars.

"The successful launch is only the first step of China's Mars mission, and we hope each of the many key steps of the long journey is completed successfully," said Geng Yan, an official at the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center of the CNSA.

The key steps include slowing down when close to Mars, orbiting, separating the landing platform and the rover from the orbiter, landing softly and roving.

The craft is expected to enter the orbit of Mars around February 2021. Afterwards, it will spend two to three months surveying potential landing sites using a high-resolution camera to prepare for the landing in May. Enditem

Quelle: Xinhua


Hong Kong PolyU contributes to China's 1st Mars mission with "Mars Camera"

China's first Mars probe Tianwen-1 was launched on Thursday with the Mars Landing Surveillance Camera (Mars Camera) developed by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU).

According to PolyU, the Mars Camera is one of the key instruments onboard the Mars spacecraft. Located on the outside top surface of the Mars lander platform, the Mars Camera will monitor the landing status, the surrounding environment and movements of the rover with respect to the unfolding and status of the solar panels and antennae.

The information is critical for the successful movement of the Mars Rover onto the Mars surface.

Led by Yung Kai-leung, PolyU's professor in precision engineering, the 20-member research team successfully completed and delivered the Mars Camera with the corresponding space qualification experiments in less than three years.

President of PolyU Jin-Guang Teng said, "We are deeply honored to have taken part in and contributed to the nation's historic Mars mission. As the only tertiary education institution in Hong Kong with experience in international space missions, PolyU looks forward to contributing to more national deep space exploration projects in the future."

PolyU has been contributing to the nation's space projects since 2010. As part of the nation's lunar exploration program, Yung collaborated with the China Academy of Space Technology to develop a "Camera Pointing System" for Chang'e-3 in 2013 and Chang'e-4 for the historic landing on moon's far side in 2019. Enditem

Quelle: Xinhua


Chinese space tracking ships complete monitoring of Mars probe launch

Three space tracking ships of China's Yuanwang fleet completed maritime monitoring of the country's first Mars probe launch in the Pacific Ocean Thursday.

A Long March-5 rocket blasted off Thursday from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in the southern province of Hainan, sending China's Mars probe into the Earth-Mars transfer orbit.

About six minutes after the liftoff, Yuanwang-6 detected and locked its targets, and carried out measuring of the rocket, and control and monitoring of the Mars orbiter.

The other two tracking ships, Yuanwang-5 and Yuanwang-7, then took turns to complete their missions.

The monitoring process lasted nearly 30 minutes.

As scheduled, Yuanwang-5 and Yuanwang-7 will return to China, while Yuanwang-6 will sail to its next mission area for satellite monitoring. Enditem

Quelle: Xinhua


Update: 29.07.2020


Feature: China's first Mars mission fuels sci-fi imagination

When Fang Zeyu, a Chinese science fiction writer, looked up yet again at the red planet, a different emotion transpired within him.

As China's first Mars mission, Tianwen-1 (meaning Questions to Heaven), blasted off to success on July 23, marking the country's first step in planetary exploration of the solar system, it has induced inspiration for Chinese sci-fi writers and artists.

Yu Jun, an astrophotographer and astronomy blogger, said he has been following the human explorations of Mars extensively.

"It is these explorations that have brought us psychologically closer to Mars. Now we talk about things on Mars as if we were talking about a neighboring village," said Yu.

The exploration could help improve human ability to go deeper into space and provide first-hand data for significant scientific research such as the origin and evolution of the solar system and life.

Last month, Fang completed the first draft of a short story about Mars, but he is yet to revise it, as he thinks the draft lacks novel elements. He believes the successful launch of Tianwen-1 may elicit new materials and help yield different perspectives for his work.

"The advancement of science and technology can further broaden our horizons, and I'm looking forward to it. It is a brand-new start," Fang said.

The prospect of upcoming works inspired by the Mars mission has thrilled many Chinese sci-fi fans.

Yang Chenxi, 27, who has loved science fiction since childhood, thought the mission would increase public interest in Mars, leading to a surge in the creation of Mars-themed sci-fi works.

"I look forward to reading a story someday that the astronauts on Mars found key resources to save Earth when our planet is in danger," Yang said.

Unlike other planets in the universe, the environment of Mars has the closest resemblance to Earth in the solar system. Thus, the exploration of Mars emanates a sense of mission and responsibility in terms of finding a new home for future generations.

Due to this goal of building a community with a shared future for mankind, Chinese sci-fi writers and scholars believe that the implication of China's first journey to Mars will go beyond science itself.

Through the eyes of Zhang Xiaobei, director and screenwriter, many leaders in the commercial space industry, such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, spent their childhoods under the influence of the Apollo program, which made them set foot in the journey to space after growing up.

"I believe that the future of mankind would be in the space, and I hope our future generations could look up at the starry sky from their childhood," said Zhang. "These are the sparks. One day, maybe a few of these little sparks will have a chance to put a shine on human civilization."

Li Zhaoxin, a sci-fi critic and partner of the Future Affairs Administration, an incubator for sci-fi writers, said that stepping out of Earth and onto other planets is a crucial realistic topic for humankind.

"Everyone should be aware that we live in a fragile ecosystem. The more people realize it, and the more we understand it, the better the world will be," said Li.

As the world is facing unique challenges this year, the Mars mission reminds people that some major undertakings require the cooperation of all mankind.

Zheng Yongchun, a researcher at the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, emphasized that no matter what the international situation may be, people should never give up international cooperation in space exploration, which is the hope of humanity.

"China's Mars exploration will also become a part of human space exploration. I hope that a new Cold War in any form doesn't dim the brilliance of the career," said Wu Yan, a sci-fi writer and professor with the Southern University of Science and Technology. Enditem

Quelle: Xinhua


China's Mars probe photographs Earth and Moon

China's Mars probe, Tianwen-1, captured an image of the Earth and Moon, about 1.2 million km from Earth, the China National Space Administration said on Tuesday.

China launched its first Mars mission Tianwen-1, which means Questions to Heaven, on July 23, marking the country's first step in planetary exploration of the solar system.

Tianwen-1 took a photo of the Earth and Moon with an optical navigation sensor on Monday. In the black-and-white picture, the Earth and the Moon, one large and one small, were both crescent-shaped, watching each other in the vast universe.

According to the CNSA, the probe has escaped the earth's gravity and entered the Earth-Mars transfer orbit, travelling more than 1.5 million km away from the Earth.

The probe was in good condition, said the CNSA. Enditem

Quelle: Xinhua


Update: 3.08.2020


China's Mars probe completes first orbital correction


This is an image of the scene taken at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC) in Beijing, capital of China, Aug. 2, 2020. China's Mars probe Tianwen-1 successfully carried out its first orbital correction at 7 a.m. (2300 GMT Saturday) after its 3,000N engine worked for 20 seconds, and continued to head for the Mars. (Xinhua/Cai Yang)

China's Mars probe Tianwen-1 successfully carried out its first orbital correction Sunday morning, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

The probe conducted the orbital correction at 7 a.m. (Beijing Time) after its 3000N engine worked for 20 seconds, and continued to head for Mars. All the systems of the probe were in good condition.

Before the orbital correction, the Mars probe had traveled more than 230 hours in space, and was about 3 million km away from the Earth.

The operation also tested the performance of the 3000N engine. The probe will undergo several orbital corrections in a more than six-month journey to Mars, said the CNSA source.

China launched the Mars probe on July 23, designed to complete orbiting, landing and roving in one mission, taking the first step in its planetary exploration of the solar system.

The Mars probe is expected to reach the red planet around February 2021. After entering the orbit, it will spend another two to three months surveying the candidate landing sites before landing.


Photo taken on Aug. 2, 2020 shows a scene at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC) in Beijing, capital of China. China's Mars probe Tianwen-1 successfully carried out its first orbital correction at 7 a.m. (2300 GMT Saturday) after its 3,000N engine worked for 20 seconds, and continued to head for the Mars. (Xinhua/Cai Yang)


Quelle: Xinhua