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China prepares for landing on Mars

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TheChinese National Space Administration has just executed a trajectory maneuver of its Tianwen-1 mission allowing it to adjust its orbit. The country is now preparing for its landing on Mars.

While Perseverance is still making the headlines following its successful landing on the Red Planet, China is in turn preparing for that of its rover which, we recall, had taken off from Wenchang base two days before the American mission. In this sense, the probe, which successfully entered orbit around the planet on February 10, has just adjusted its trajectory. It will stay in this orbit while waiting for the planned landing. in three months.

A landing to make history

In the meantime, it will consist of mapping the surface of Mars and use its cameras and other sensors to collect additional data at its landing site. For now, the mission is still scheduled to land in the vast rocky plain called Utopia Planitia where the American Viking 2 lander had already landed in 1976.

China’s attempt will involve deploying a parachute, firing retro rockets, and inflating huge air bags. This eventful landing will be reminiscent of that of the Pathfinder mission in 1997.

If it succeeds, China will be the second pay only to gently land a vehicle on Mars, after the United States. Recall that landing on the Red Planet is notoriously tricky, mainly due to the lack of atmosphere. A dozen machines have already missed their target since the 1960s.

The size of a golf cart, China’s solar-powered rover will collect data on Martian groundwater. It will also be a question of mapping the geological structure of the planet.

The Chinese probe seen by a tiny camera ejected from the spacecraft in a photo taken 24 million kilometers from Earth. Credits: CNSA

China, a major player in the space sector

Note that Tianwen-1 represents the most ambitious mission to date of the Chinese space program which has made incredible progress in recent years. Recall that China placed its first taikonaut in orbit around the Earth in 2003. Last year, the country also distinguished itself by bringing back to Earth the first lunar samples for forty years, two years after having landed with success on the “dark side” of the Moon.

Finally, it should be noted that China is currently building a space station which will succeed the ISS in the coming years. On board, the taikonauts will conduct science experiments and prepare for future long-term space missions. With this in mind, the structure’s basic module has just successfully passed its flight acceptance exam. It will be launched in the spring, before being joined by a first crew a few weeks later.



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