China unveils its Mars rover Tianwen-1 which will search for signs of life on the red planet ahead of Beijing’s historic exploration mission
- Beijing is expected to launch its first-ever Martian probe any day from now
- The country debuted the probe’s rover and lander at a grand ceremony today
- Tianwen-1 is due to survey the planet’s surface after a seven-minute landing
- China is racing Russia and the US to become a space superpower by 2030
China has debuted its first-ever Mars rover Tianwen-1 as the country prepares to launch its historic exploration mission to the red planet any day from now.
The rover measures just over six feet in height (1.85m) and weighs 530 pounds (240kg), according to the country’s state media. It will be tasked to search for water and signs of life on the alien soil.
Beijing’s landmark space probe is scheduled to take off any time between July and August – depending on the weather conditions – and expected to reach Mars in February next year.
The Chinese space exploration authority introduced the nation’s first Mars rover Tianwen-1 (pictured) at a grand ceremony on Wednesday. The rover measures just over six feet in height
According to state broadcaster CCTV, the rover is equipped with four solar panels which can help it survey the surface of the red planet for three Martian months, about 92 Earth days
A poem pondering on the stars and planets written over 2000 years ago was the inspiration for the name of China’s first exploration mission to Mars.
Tianwen-1 is a robotic exploration mission to the Red Planet and is due to launch in the summer of this year – around the same time as the NASA Perseverance rover.
Called, Tianwen (天问), the poem was written by ancient Chinese literati and politician Qu Yuan (339-278BC), who lived in the Chu State (770-223BC).
The phrase means ‘Quest for Heavenly Truth’ and raises questions about the stars and other heavenly bodies.
The Chinese Martian explorer comprises three parts: an orbiter, a lander and a rover.
The orbiter is set to travel around the planet, the lander could help the rover land on Mars, and the rover is due to examine the planet’s surface.
The Tianwen-1 rover, named after a 2,000-year-old Chinese poem that ponders on stars and planets, was introduced to the public at a grand ceremony today.
The solar-powered machine is designed to work on Mars for three Martian months, about 92 Earth days, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
Engineers expected it to survey the composition, types of substance, geological structure and meteorological environment of the Martian surface before transmitting the findings back to Earth, said the station in a social media post.
It is equipped with at least six advanced instruments, including a geological camera, a multispectral camera, a subsurface detection radar, a surface composition detector, a surface magnetic field detector and a weather detector.
It is also said to be capable of identifying and avoiding obstacles, planning routes as well as adjusting its movements.
China’s space authority also presented its Mars lander at today’s event.
Officials also unveiled the Mars lander (above), which is due to help the rover touch down on Mars. The lander and rover would enter the Martian atmosphere as a whole with a parachute
This is an illustration of what the Tianwen-1 rover could look like when it lands on Mars. The space probe is set to take off any time between July and August and reach Mars in February
The lander and the rover, weighing 2,866 pounds (1,300kg) together, are due to be dropped from the orbiter as a whole. They would enter the Martian atmosphere with a parachute.
The two spacecraft would need to significantly reduce their speed – from around 12,427 miles (20,000km) per hour to stationary – in the space of seven minutes for the landing, according to Liu Tongjie, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center at China’s National Space Administration.
Mr Liu explained that the machines would scan the Martian surface before choosing a safe place to land without human intervention.
China’s first mission to Mars is slated to launch in July or August as the country sprints to become a major space power in the global race.
China’s Mars mission will use the Long March-5 Y4 carrier rocket (pictured above), which the contractor of the space programme described as the country’s most powerful rocket. The picture shows the rocket being transported to the launching site for a test flight in December
Animation footage of the project, previously released by CCTV, illustrates a lander releasing a ground rover to explore the Martian surface after landing.
The mission will use the Long March-5 Y4 carrier rocket, which the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) has described as the country’s most powerful rocket.
Last November, China successfully conducted a test landing of the rover.
The experiment simulated the robot’s process of hovering, avoiding obstacles and landing on Mars.
The Mars exploration is among several new space projects China is pursuing, including putting Chinese astronauts on the moon and having a space station by 2022. This graphic illustrates different types of rovers and satellites are currently orbiting the red planet
A month later, China conducted a successful test flight of an early version of the Long March-5 rocket.
In 2003, it became the third country to put a man in space with its own rocket after the former Soviet Union and the United States.
Since then, China has been racing to catch up with Russia and the United States and become a major space power by 2030.
In January last year, a Chinese lunar explorer became the first-ever spacecraft to touch down on the dark side of the moon.
Its lunar rover, Yutu-2, transmitted never-before-seen ‘close range’ images back to its engineers after making the historic landing.
CHINA STEPS UP PLANS TO BECOME SPACE SUPERPOWER WITH MARS AND MOON MISSIONS
Officials from the Chinese space agency are working to become a space superpower alongside the US and Russia.
They have already sent the first mission to the far side of the Moon – sharing photos from the part of our nearest neighbour we rarely see.
Chang’e-6 will be the first mission to explore the south pole of the Moon and is expected to launch in 2023 or 2024.
Chang’e-7 will study the land surface, composition, space environment in an overall mission, according to the Chinese space authority, while Chang’e-8 will focus on technical surface analysis.
China is also reportedly working on building a lunar base using 3D printing technology.
Mission number eight will likely lay the groundwork for this as it strives to verify the technology earmarked for the project and if it is viable as a scientific base.
The CNSA is also building an Earth-orbiting space station where Chinese astronauts will conduct scientific experiments, similar to the crew of the ISS.
The agency is also launching a mission to Mars in summer 2020 which will see them land a rover on the surface of the red planet.
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