by Douglas Messier
In its most ambitious robotic space mission to date, China will launch an orbiter, lander and rover to Mars later this week.
A Long March 5 booster is set to launch the Tianwen-1 mission from the Wenchang spaceport on Thursday, July 23.
Tianwen-1 is the first Mars mission that China has attempted on its own. The Chinese Yinghuo-1 sub-satellite was launched aboard Russia’s Phobos-Grunt mission in November 2011. However, the ambitious mission to the martian moon never left Earth orbit.
Tianwen-1’s orbiter, which weighs in at 3,175 kg (7,000 lb), will study the Red Planet with six instruments, including:
- high-resolution camera (HRC) with a 2-meter resolution
- medium resolution camera with an 100-meter resolution
- mineral spectrometer
- subsurface radar
- ion and neutral particle analyzer.
The solar powered rover, which measures 2 by 1.65 m (6.6 x 5.4 ft) and weighs 240 kg (529 lb), will explore the Utopia Planitia region. The rover’s six instruments include:
- ground-penetrating radar capable of imaging 100 meters below the surface
- multi-spectrum camera
- navigation and topography camera
- surface compound detector
- magnetic field detector
- meteorological measurement instrument.
The rover will be flown aboard a lander that will use retrorockets, a parachute and an airbag to land on the Martian surface.
Tianwen means heavenly questions or questions to heaven. The mission was developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.