China’s “Tianjin 1” spacecraft-which has been operating on Mars since February-plans to deploy a descending module to try to land on the Red Planet for the first time in mid-May. A senior Chinese scientist said last week that officials plan to share scientific data from the Mars rover with researchers around the world.
Chinese officials have yet to announce the exact date for landing on Mars. Compared with officials of other Mars missions, Tianwen 1 mission managers are more flexible in determining the landing date.
Astro One will release its lander and rover in orbit around Mars. Most Martian landers, such as NASA’s Perseverance Rover, enter the Martian atmosphere directly from the Earth. These trajectories usually have a preset landing date associated with the beginning of the mission.
Wang Qi, director of the National Space Science Center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said on March 23 that the lander and rover of the Astronomy 1 are scheduled to land on Mars in May.
“In the first Chinese mission to Mars, Astronomy 1 is now operating on Mars, and we will land in mid-May,” Wang said in a speech to the Space Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences. “We welcome international cooperation, and these data will be publicly released soon.”
The Tiantian-1 spacecraft entered the orbit of Mars on February 10 and completed a nearly seven-month interplanetary journey. The journey started in July last year and was launched using the heavy Long March 5 rocket, which is the most powerful launch on China’s list. Device.
The Astro-1 spacecraft arrived on Mars, making China the sixth country or space agency to orbit the red planet after the United States, the former Soviet Union, the European Space Agency, India and the United Arab Emirates.
Since February 10, the “Tianjin 1” spacecraft has been maneuvered into an orbit closer to Mars. The current path of the orbiter takes it approximately 174 miles (280 kilometers) from Mars, and the farthest distance is 36,660 miles (59,000 kilometers) from Mars. Astronomy 1 goes around the red planet once every two days or so.
One day after the UAE’s “Hope” orbiter orbited the red planet, eight days before NASA’s Perseverance Rover landed, Astronomy 1 reached Mars. Once every 26 months, planetary alignment beneficial to Earth and Mars enables these three missions to reach Mars in February.
Astro One’s lander and rover will aim to land on the vast plain called Utopia Planitia in the northern hemisphere of Mars.
If China achieves this feat, it will make China the third country after the Soviet Union and the United States to make a soft landing on Mars, and the second country to drive a robotic rover on the Red Planet.
The Tiantian-1 orbiter will continue to perform its mission after releasing the lander and rover. It is designed to operate for at least Martian years, or about two years on Earth. Chinese officials said the solar-powered rover is equipped with six wheels and can move. Its life expectancy is at least 90 days.
Once the lander and rover are released, the Astronomy One Orbiter will adjust its orbit to transition to conventional scientific operations. The orbiter will also relay communication signals between China’s ground controller and the rover that explores the surface of Mars.
The Astronomy 1 rover was wrapped in a heat shield, causing the surface of Mars to drop fiercely. After being released from the orbital mothership, the lander will enter the atmosphere of the red planet, deploy the parachute, and then launch the brake rocket to slow it down.
Assuming a successful landing, the rover will activate cameras, underground radars, sensors that measure the composition of Martian rock, magnetic field monitors, and weather stations to start collecting data at the Utopia location in Planitia.
With the arrival of the Chinese Astronomy One and the UAE’s Hope missions, there are now eight orbiters in operation on Mars.
NASA’s Odyssey spacecraft, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and MAVEN Atmospheric Observatory are currently returning data from Mars orbit, the European Space Agency’s Mars Express and ExoMars Tracking Gas Orbiter, and India’s Mars Orbiter.
NASA said that since the Astronomy One reached the “Red Planet” last week, it has conducted “limited information exchange” with the Chinese Space Administration to share orbital data from the Mars orbiter. NASA said the data sharing program is designed to reduce the risk of collisions between spacecraft operating on Mars.
A law called the “Wolf Amendment” prohibits most bilateral cooperation between the U.S. and China’s space programs. The Wolf Amendment was named after Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia, who first inserted this language into NASA’s budget bill in 2011.
But the law does not restrict all contacts between NASA and the Chinese Space Administration, as long as the proposed cooperation has been reviewed by the FBI and NASA has notified Congress of the exchange at least 30 days in advance.
The China National Space Administration confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that it held a “work level meeting” with NASA from January to March to “exchange ephemeris data to ensure the flight safety of the Martian spacecraft.”
Although NASA’s cooperation with China’s space program is very limited, other countries are more involved in Chinese missions such as Tiantian-1.
Scientists from the French Institute of Astrophysics and Science (IRAP) contributed to the laser-induced breakdown spectrometer on the Astro One rover.
French scientists, with the support of the French Space Agency (CNES), provided guidance on spectroscopy techniques to their Chinese counterparts. This technique uses lasers to rupture the needle-sized parts of the rock, and uses a spectrometer to analyze the laser and plasma The interaction of the rock surface.
This technology allows the instrument to determine the chemical composition of rocks on Mars. French scientists also provided China with calibration targets for the rover laser spectrometer.
The same French team built instruments for NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance Mars rover. Scientists hope to cross-calibrate the measurement results between the two US-led missions and China’s “Tianjin-1” rover.
Scientists from the Institute of Space Research of the Austrian Academy of Sciences assisted in the development of the magnetometer on the Astronomy 1 orbiter and helped calibrate the flight instrument.
Argentina is home to China’s deep-space tracking antenna that communicates with the Astronomy 1 satellite. The European Space Agency also agreed to provide communication time for Astronomy 1 through its own global network of deep space tracking stations.
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