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Tianwen 1 Mars mission 'proceeding well'

By Zhao Lei | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-03-04 14:39

Illustration of Tianwen 1 probe entering Martian orbit. [Photo provided to China Daily]

China's Tianwen 1 robotic probe Mars mission is proceeding well and is scheduled to land its rover on the red planet in May or June, said a senior space scientist.

Bao Weimin, director of science and technology at China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp and an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told reporters on Thursday afternoon at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing that the spacecraft is in good condition and is travelling at 4.8 kilometers per second in an orbit above Mars, using its scientific payloads to observe and investigate an optimal landing site.

Bao Weimin, a member of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), is interviewed via video link ahead of the opening of the fourth session of the 13th CPPCC National Committee at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, March 4, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

He mentioned the three high-definition pictures of Mars taken by Tianwen 1 and published by China's space authority published on Thursday morning, saying the images contain a great deal of scientific data.

Bao made the remarks before attending the opening ceremony of the fourth session of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

He is a member of the CPPCC National Committee, the nation's top political advisory body.

Tianwen 1, the country's first independent Mars mission, was launched by a Long March 5 heavy-lift carrier rocket on July 23 from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province, kicking off the nation's planetary exploration program.

The 5-metric ton probe, which consists of two major parts - the orbiter and the landing capsule - has flown for 224 days and about 475 million km. Currently, it is about 212 million km away from Earth, according to the administration.

It entered its preset parking orbit above Mars on Feb 24 and will fly in this orbit for about three months before releasing its landing capsule, the administration said.

All of the seven mission payloads on the orbiter will be gradually activated during the probe's stay in the parking orbit to carry out scientific tasks and also to observe and analyze the landforms and weather conditions at the optimal landing site, it noted.

The Tianwen 1 mission's ultimate goal is to land its rover in May or June on the southern part of Mars' Utopia Planitia - a large plain within Utopia, the largest recognized impact basin in the solar system - to conduct scientific surveys.

Weighing about 240 kilograms, the rover, which has yet to be named, has six wheels and four solar panels and will be able to move at 200 meters per hour on Mars. It carries six scientific instruments including a multispectral camera, ground-penetrating radar and meteorological measurer, and is expected to operate for around three months on the planet.

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