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China's Tianwen 1 robotic probe set to enter Mars orbit
SOURCE: chinadaily     UPDATED: 2021-02-04

China's Tianwen 1 Mars probe is set to enter Mars' orbit around Feb 10, two days before Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, according to China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

The spacecraft will conduct a "braking" operation to decelerate its speed to make sure it will be captured by Mars' gravity.

As of Thursday morning, Tianwen 1 has flown 196 days in a trajectory toward the red planet and has traveled more than 450 million kilometers. It is now around 170 million km away from the Earth.

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

The China National Space Administration previously said that if everything goes according to schedule, the 5-metric ton probe, which consists of two major parts – the orbiter and the landing capsule, will travel more than 470 million km before entering Mars' orbit, when it will be 193 million km away from Earth.

Depending on the two planets' orbits, Mars is from 55 million km to 400 million km distant from Earth.

The mission's ultimate goal is to soft-land a rover in May 2021 on the southern part of Mars' Utopia Planitia -- a large plain within Utopia, the largest recognized impact basin in the solar system -- to make scientific surveys.