China’s Tianwen-1 Mars Probe Enters Final ‘Global Remote Sensing’ Part of Historic Mission
© Photo : China National Space AdministrationThe China National Space Administration on Thursday published pictures of its first Mars rover, Tianwen-1, which have been made by the spacecraft itself en route to the Red Planet
© Photo : China National Space Administration
Nine months into its mission at the Red Planet, China’s Tianwen-1 orbiter has completed a fifth braking maneuver above Mars. The probe is China’s first to Mars and has already been a resounding success, but it still has about 14 months of planned mission left.
The solar-powered spacecraft fired its engines for 260 seconds on what we here on Earth would’ve called late Monday evening, pushing it into a new elliptical orbit that will take it closer to the Martian surface than it has traveled so far, according to CGTN.
The new orbit will take it to a height of 10,000 kilometers at its zenith and 260 kilometers at its nadir, with an inclination of about 87 degrees - an orientation that will take it over Mars’ frozen poles. From this vantage point, Tianwen-1 will conduct global remote sensing by detecting an area’s reflected and emitted radiation from different vantage points.
The new orbit will allow Tianwen-1 to double the time it’s over Utopia Planitia, the equatorial plains where its Zhurong rover is deployed, to three passes per day. The space probe acts as a communications relay between the rover and Chinese mission command at the National Space Science Center (NSSC) in Beijing.
According to the Global Times, the faster orbit will allow Tianwen-1 to map out the entire planet in about 200 Earth days. Some of the things it will be looking at include morphology and geological structure, the composition and soil type distribution across the planet’s surface, and the Martian ionosphere, or uppermost layer of its atmosphere that touches space.
Tianwen-1 arrived in Martian orbit in February 2021, where it was joined by the United States’ Perseverance probe and the United Arab Emirates’ Hope spacecraft, each traveling there on separate missions. After orbiting the planet and taking a variety of measurements and photos, Zhurong was deployed to the surface in May, where it has conducted up-close measurements of the Martian surface and traveled more than half a mile.