Friday - February 12, 2021
The Tianwen-1 spacecraft finally made it to the Red Planet after six months of travel. Now, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) has released stunning footage of its machine's approach. At first, the video shows Tianwen-1's solar panel against a backdrop of pitch blackness.
The video, filmed in black and white, shows Mars getting bigger as the video goes on until one can see individual craters along the surface of Mars. Details about the success of the mission are so far scant, but according to state media, everything went according to plan.
This involved a 14-minute braking period to reduce the speed of the machine from 23 kilometres per second to a speed which would allow Tianwen-1 to be captured by the gravitational pull. While the feat is hard enough in itself, the timing needed to be impeccable due to it taking signals 11 minutes to reach Earth from 190 million kilometres away.
Tianwen-1 will now orbit Mars for seven months, collecting valuable data. The machine will analyse the planet's geology and morphology - how the planet's surface has changed - using its Mars-Orbiting Subsurface Exploration Radar instrument. After scanning the planet for just over half a year, the rover, which is currently unnamed, will be detached from Tianwen-1. China has located Utopia Planitia - a huge basin located in the planet's northern hemisphere - as the perfect landing spot.
Following the UAE's and China's success, NASA will go one step further by landing its Perseverance rover on the Red Planet on February 18. Perseverance will go straight to roaming the Red Planet, where it will look for signs of life, both past and present, in the Jazero Crater.