China is ready to go to the Red Planet. The Tianwen-1 mission was launched atop a Long March 5 rocket on July 23. This one has an orbiter and a lander and rover duo, which is something that has never been launched together on a journey to the Red Planet. This is China’s first try on getting on Mars by themselves – they tried ones to launch a Mars orbiter called Yinghuo-1, but it has flown with Russia’s Phobos-Grunt mission. This launch failed, and the probes were trapped in Earth’s orbit.
According to an insider, “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.”
If everything goes according to the plan, Tianwen-1 will land on Mars in February 2021. The pair is supposed to get on the surface of the place surface two to three months later, within Utopia Planitia, which is placed in the Northern Hemisphere. That’s where NASA’s Viking 2 lander landed back in 1976.
How long will the rover be there?
The rover will be on the surface of the Red Planet for 90 days (or sols; a sol is 40 minutes longer than one Earth day), and it will study its surroundings in detail. It will use six different science instruments: Multispectral Camera, Terrain Camera, Mars-Rover Subsurface Exploration Radar, Mars Surface Composition Detector, Mars Magnetic Field Detector, and Mars Meteorology Monitor.
The orbiter will then settle into a polar orbit, which will be 165 miles (that’s 265 kilometers) close to the Martian surface. The spacecraft will send valuable info home and will collect science data of its own. This one also has instruments for taking advantage of two cameras, the Mars-Orbiting Subsurface Exploration Radar, Mars Mineralogy Spectrometer, Mars Magnetometer, Mars Ion and Neutral Particle Analyzer and Mars Energetic Particle Analyzer.