by Xinhua writer Dong Yue
BEIJING, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- Are human beings alone in the universe? Is Earth the only planet where humans can subsist? These profound questions are what humankind has long obsessed over.
To uncover some clues for the ultimate secret of the universe, China's Mars probe is on the march.
After travelling about 475 million km, Tianwen-1, China's Mars probe, successfully braked to slow down and entered the red planet's orbit on late Wednesday, setting the stage for a soft landing in the coming months. If everything goes as planned, China will be the third country in history to touch down on Mars' surface following the United States and former Soviet Union.
Tianwen-1 blasted off last July. Designed to complete orbiting, landing and roving in one mission, the some 5-tonne probe, whose name means questions to the universe, marks another milestone in China's arduous adventure into deep space.
Starting from scratch more than 60 years ago, China has made enormous strides in its burgeoning aerospace industry and has grown into a worldwide trailblazer in space tech innovation. Chinese scientists and workers have devoted themselves to humankind's grand cause of space exploration over the past few decades.
Despite the disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic, the year 2020 was quite fruitful for China's aerospace development, witnessing a string of successes including the landmark Moon mission and the completion of a nearly 30-year-long deployment of the BeiDou-3 Navigation Satellite System.
The launch of China's Mars probe was a highlight of the bumper year. It marks a new and determined step for China to deepen the human race's understanding of the vast and mysterious universe.
In recent decades, a tangle of planetary problems has plunged humanity's shared homeland, Earth, into further convulsion and uncertainty. The sudden strike of the lethal pathogen and much more frequent extreme weather due to climate change have further highlighted that we all share one common destiny.
The fact that humanity remains exposed to increasingly unpredictable tribulations here on Earth makes Martian exploration and other space missions essential. The human race must prepare for a possible day when it may need to migrate to another planet. Such a mission demands broad international collaboration.
Unfortunately, it seems that some major Western countries cannot shake off their Cold-War mentality, and insist on putting their own interests above the shared interests of all humankind.
Through a zero-sum lens, they view space as merely another you-win-I-lose battleground. Instead of sponsoring joint space exploration, they tend to create hurdles for global cooperation and try to deny the legitimate rights of other countries to peacefully utilize space.
China opposes any action to militarize or privatize space for hegemonic or monopolistic purposes. It embraces openness and cooperation throughout its space adventures. In conducting its Mars mission, China has carried out extensive cooperation with the European Space Agency, France, Austria and Argentina.
For example, a deep space monitoring station installed in Argentina, under a China-Argentina cooperative agreement, was the first to track Tianwen-1 after its launch. The facility also played a role in China's landing of the Chang'e-4 spacecraft on the dark side of the moon in 2019.
Moreover, a global naming campaign kicked off in late July last year and came up with 10 selected names for China's first Mars rover. The country's space administration has unveiled the 10 selections and invited internet users from across the globe to vote on the candidates before making a final decision.
On the roads leading to Mars, Tianwen-1 is not alone. NASA's Perseverance rover is scheduled to land on Mars on Feb. 18, and the United Arab Emirates' Hope Probe has entered the orbit of the planet on Tuesday.
Our human ancestors might not have imagined that their descendants would one day be able to reach a planet that they once gazed at. Mars was even associated with disaster and death because of its color. Nowadays the red planet has been widely recognized as a potential outpost in the solar system for humankind to explore its future in deep blue space.
Armed with almost magical modern technologies, perseverance, unity, and perhaps a little luck, the human race by joining hands will one day find the answers to the ancient and mystical questions of space. Enditem