After returning Moon samples, China is all set to add another feather in its cap. The Asian giant’s Mars-bound spacecraft is nearing its end journey. Its Mars probe is named Tianwen-1. The spacecraft has traveled more than 400 million km from Earth. It will enter the orbit of Mars in February. According to the China National Space Administration, Tianwen-1 will enter Red Planet’s orbit on February 24. Tianwen-1 was launched on July 23, 2020, from Wenchang. Since then, it has flown for 163 days in space. The CNSA said that the spacecraft is in stable condition and is on the right track to enter Mars orbit. It has started preparations before entering orbit. The agency said that the spacecraft will slow down its speed as it nears the planet.
The Chinese space agency said that Tianwen-1 has carried out three orbital corrections so far. It is carrying multiple payloads including an orbiter and a lander. It is also carrying a rover. The probe will be orbiting the planet before landing a rover on its surface. The CNSA said that the probe will spend months looking for potential sites for landing the rover. It is equipped with a high-resolution camera that will select the site and pave the way for its landing. The rover is likely to touch down on the Red Planet’s surface in May. The agency said that the soft landing of the rover will be the most challenging part of the mission. It will use a parachute and retrorocket as the rover touches down. It will buffer legs for landing.
The probe weighs nearly five tonnes. Once the rover touches down, it will begin to search for potential signs of life on Mars. It has an expected lifespan of 90 days. The rover will transmit data from Mars to scientists back on Earth. The mission comes close on the heels of China successfully bringing back lunar samples. It has become the third country other than the US and Russia to achieve this feat. The Chinese spacecraft has already sent back multiple pictures of Earth and Moon. It has also clicked an image showing both Earth and its only Moon. The spacecraft has also clicked several selfies as it heads towards the Red Planet. China will join the league of three countries –the US, Russia, ESA, and India, to probe the Red Planet which holds the potential to host life.