Factbox: A timeline of China's Mars exploration

Source: Xinhua| 2021-02-10 21:29:50|Editor: huaxia

BEIJING, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- China's Mars probe Tianwen-1 successfully entered the orbit around Mars on Wednesday after a nearly 7-month voyage from Earth.

It marks that China has completed a significant step of its current Mars exploration mission, which includes orbiting, landing, and roving.

The following are some key facts of China's Mars exploration.


On April 22, 2016, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced that the country aimed to launch its first mission to Mars around 2020 and complete orbiting, landing, and roving the red planet in one mission.

Before this, a Mars orbiter, named Yinghuo-1, was launched along with Russia's Phobos-Grunt spacecraft in November 2011. The spacecraft, however, failed to complete the orbital transfer on the path to Mars.


On April 24, 2020, the CNSA announced that China's first Mars exploration mission was named Tianwen-1.

The name comes from the long poem "Tianwen," meaning Heavenly Questions or Questions to Heaven, written by Qu Yuan (about 340-278 BC), one of ancient China's greatest poets.

All the Chinese planetary exploration missions in the future will be named the Tianwen series, signifying the Chinese nation's perseverance in pursuing truth and science and exploring nature and the universe.


On July 23, 2020, China launched Tianwen-1 via a Long March-5 rocket, China's largest launch vehicle, from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on the coast of southern China's island province of Hainan.

On July 28, 2020, it exited Earth's gravity and entered the Earth-Mars transfer orbit.


On Oct. 1, 2020, the CNSA released mid-flight images of the Mars probe Tianwen-1 as China's National Day coincided with the Mid-Autumn Festival.

The images showed China's five-star red flag dazzling with the golden orbiter and the silver lander and rover in the darkness of the universe.


On Feb. 5, the CNSA released the first image of Mars captured by Tianwen-1. It was taken from a distance of 2.2 million km from Mars.

Tianwen-1 had conducted four orbital corrections, one deep-space maneuver, and self-checks on payloads.


On Feb. 10, Tianwen-1 successfully entered the orbit around Mars after a nearly 7-month voyage from Earth.

A 3000N engine was ignited to slow down Tianwen-1. After about 15 minutes, the spacecraft was slow enough to enter Mars' gravity and went into an elliptical orbit around the red planet. The closest distance above the Martian surface was about 400 km. It will take Tianwen-1 about ten Earth days to complete one circle.


In the following months, Tianwen-1 will have multiple orbital corrections to enter a temporary Mars parking orbit, surveying potential landing sites and preparing for the landing in May or June.

A relatively flat region in the southern part of the Utopia Planitia, a large plain, has been selected as the potential landing zone.

The rover will be released after the landing to conduct scientific exploration with an expected lifespan of at least 90 Martian days (about three months on Earth). The orbiter has a design life of one Martian year (about 687 days on Earth) and will relay communications for the rover. Enditem