From China Tianwen-1 The spacecraft has trimmed its orbit around Mars to allow it to analyze the chosen landing region on the Red Planet.
Following the burn, which occurred on Tuesday (February 23), Tianwen-1 is now in position to begin imaging and collecting data at the primary and backup landing sites for the mission rover, which will attempt to land on May or June.
Tianwen-1, China’s first independent interplanetary mission, consists of an orbiter and a rover, which have been in the orbit of Mars as a single spacecraft. from February 10. The last engine start, at 5:29 p.m. EST Tuesday (2229 GMT, 06:29 Beijing time Wednesday), executed during the spacecraft’s closest approach to Mars, greatly reduced its apoapsis, or farthest point on the planet.
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Tianwen-1’s new “parking orbit” brings the spacecraft as close as 170 miles (280 kilometers) to Mars and as far as 37,000 miles (59,000 km).
The mission orbiter is now firing its camera and science payloads, preparing to assess the landscape and dust conditions in the main landing site, situated within an area of Utopia Planitia, a vast plain on the Red Planet.
The “parking orbit” will allow the orbiter to capture sharp images of the target landing site, potentially returning images with a resolution of 20 inches (50 centimeters) per pixel.
Tianwen-1 will photograph the region multiple times to assess topography and dust conditions in the landing zone, said Tan Zhiyun, deputy chief designer of the Mars probe at the Chinese Academy of Space Technology (CAST). CCTV +. “We will calculate all of this information in preparation for a safe landing,” Tan said.
Each orbit takes about two Earth days to complete, so China can capture and release the probe’s first high-resolution images of the Martian surface in the following days.
Understanding local conditions is also very important to the operation of the mission’s approximately 530 pounds. (240 kilograms) solar powered rover. Martian dust can pose a major threat to solar-powered spacecraft on the surface; NASA’s Opportunity rover lost contact with Earth in 2018 during a global dust storm.
The Tianwen-1 rover is contained within an aeroshell attached to the orbiter. This conical structure will protect and slow down the rover during its fierce and hypersonic entry into the Martian atmosphere at the beginning of the landing attempt. A supersonic parachute will further slow the vehicle down before the jet engines provide the final deceleration for the soft landing.
The rover carries scientific payloads to investigate surface soil characteristics and mineral composition and to search for potential water ice with ground penetrating radar. The rover is designed to operate for 90 Suns from Mars (92 Earth days) with the Tianwen-1 orbiter serving to transmit communications and data between the rover and Earth. The orbiter is designed to operate for a total of one year on Mars, or about 687 Earth days.
Tianwen-1 is one of three missions that just arrived on Mars. Tianwen-1 entered orbit a day after the United Arab Emirates’ Hope probe accomplished the same feat and a week before the spectacular landing of NASA’s Perseverance rover.
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