Tianwen-1: China names its first Mars mission ‘Tianwen-1’; launch planned for later this year
China has named its Mars exploration mission ‘Tianwen-1’ ahead of its planned launch later this year
China has named its first Mars exploration mission as ‘Tianwen-1’. The announcement was made on April 24, 2020, the same day when the nation celebrated ‘Space Day’ to mark the 50th anniversary of the launch of its first-ever satellite ‘Dong Fang Hong-1’ in 1970.
China’s Mars mission will include an orbiter, a lander and a rover. The mission is expected to be launched later this year. With the mission, China aims to catch up with the other nations that have launched successful mars missions including the United States, European Union, Russia and India.
Why has China named its Mars mission as ‘Tianwen-1’?
China’s Mars mission has been named ‘Tianwen-1’ by the China National Space Administration (CNSA). Tianwen-1 means heavenly questions or questions to heaven, which is a poem written by a well-known Chinese poet Qu Yuan (340-278 BC).
In the poem, the Chinese poet raises several questions in a verse regarding the sky, stars, myths, natural phenomena and the real world with the spirit of seeking the truth, showing his doubts about some of the traditional concepts.
As per CNSA, all of China's future planetary exploration missions will be named the Tianwen series, signifying the Chinese pursuit of truth, science, exploration of nature and universe.
Tianwen-1: All you need to know
• The new Chinese Mars probe spacecraft has been developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). It is being managed by the National Space Science Centre (NSSC).
• The lander carrying the rover will use a parachute, retrorockets, and an airbag to achieve a successful landing.
• The rover will be powered by solar panels. It will probe the ground with radar and perform chemical analyses on the soil and look for biomolecules and biosignatures.
The main objective of launching Tianwen-1 is to search for evidence of both current and past life on Mars and to assess the planet's environment.
The Mars orbiter and rover together will provide maps of the Martian surface topography, soil characteristics, water ice component, material composition, atmosphere, ionosphere field and collect other scientific data.
When will Tianwen-1 be launched?
Though the launch of China’s Mars mission ‘Tianwen-1’ was scheduled for July 2020, it is not clear whether the mission will continue as per the previous schedule or whether it will be delayed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has brought most of the world to a halt.
China has emerged as a major space power in recent years. It has not only launched a manned space mission but also managed to land a rover on the darker and less-explored side of the moon. China is reported to be building its own space station currently. However, despite its vast progress in space missions, China’s past attempt to reach Mars had failed.
China had begun its Mars programme in 2009 in partnership with Russia. China had launched its Mars exploratory probe ‘Yinghuo-1’ aboard a Russian spacecraft in 2011. The mission failed shortly after the launch and the Mars probe was declared lost and later burnt during re-entry. Following this, China initiated its independent Mars project.
Among other nations, the United States, European Union, Russia and India have so far succeeded in sending missions to Mars. Mars mission is regarded as one of the most complex space missions. India was the first Asian country to have successfully launched its Mars orbiter mission, Mangalyaan in 2014. India was also the first nation to enter the Martian orbit in its first attempt.