Chinese spaceships will be the second to enter Mars orbit this month Science & Tech News

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China is the sixth nation to ever reach Mars after the Tianwen-1 spacecraft, with two orbits and landers, successfully entered the planet’s orbit.

Tianwen-1, which means “Search for Heavenly Truth,” took off from Hainan Island off the south coast of China last July, with hundreds of spectators watching from a nearby beach.

And after seven months in space, it reached the orbit of the Red Planet at 11:52 a.m. UK time on Wednesday.

The Chinese spaceship is the second of three space missions that start this month after United Arab Emirates Hope spacecraft, which entered orbit Tuesdayand they will be followed by NASA’s Perseverance Rover.

Everything you need to know about this month's three Mars missions

Everything you need to know about this month’s three Mars missions

EXPLAINER

Tianwen-1 has both a segment of orbital, which will remain in space, and a lander – although the lander won’t attempt to reach Martian solid ground until May.

There you should look for underground water and look for possible ancient forms of life.

According to the China National Space Administration (CNSA), the mission is the first in the country to explore Mars and successfully orbits the planet for surveillance purposes before attempting to land on a location on Utopia Planitia – a plain that is the largest known impact basin represents there.

NASA discovered possible signs of ice at the site, according to an article in Nature Astronomy written by head of mission Wan Weixing, who died of cancer last May.

In order to enter Mars orbit, the spaceship had to perform a challenging braking maneuver in order to slow down and be caught by the planet’s gravity. According to the CNSA, this was successful.

Before entering orbit – at a distance of about 2.2 m from Mars – the vehicle captured a monochrome image of the planet.

A monochrome image of Mars captured by China's Tianwen-1 spacecraft. Image: CNSA
Picture:
A monochrome image of Mars captured by China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft. Image: CNSA

Once the 240 kg solar-powered device lands on Mars, it will operate for about three months, looking for biomolecules and biosignatures in the ground, while the orbiter is expected to last for two years.

The launch is China’s second attempt to get to Mars.

Only the United States has successfully landed a spaceship on the Red Planet, eight times since 1976.

More than half of the ships sent there were either blown up, burned, or plunged to the surface, including China’s last attempt – in collaboration with Russia – in 2011.

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