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China's Tianwen-1 probe enters orbit over polar region of Mars
SOURCE: xinhua     UPDATED: 2021-02-19

China's Tianwen-1 probe successfully entered the orbit around Mars on Wednesday after a nearly seven-month voyage from Earth.

A 3000N engine was ignited at 7:52 p.m. (Beijing time) to decelerate Tianwen-1, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

After about 15 minutes, the spacecraft, including an orbiter, a lander and a rover, had slowed enough to be captured by Mars' gravity and entered an elliptical orbit around the red planet, with its closest distance from the Martian surface at about 400 km. It will take Tianwen-1 about 10 Earth days to complete one circle.

The development marks China's completion of a key step in its current Mars exploration program, which is designed to complete orbiting, landing and roving in one mission, said the CNSA.

After entering the Mars orbit, payloads aboard the orbiter, including cameras and various particle analyzers, will next start working and carry out surveys of the planet.

Tianwen-1 was launched via a Long March-5 rocket, China's largest launch vehicle, from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on the coast of southern China's island province of Hainan on July 23, 2020.

Tianwen-1 has been traveling in space for 202 days. It has carried out four orbital corrections and a deep-space maneuver. It has flown 475 million km and was 192 million km from Earth when it reached the Mars orbit.

A steerable radio telescope with a 70-meter-diameter antenna in Wuqing District of northern China's Tianjin City is a key facility receiving scientific data sent back by the Mars probe. The one-way communication delay is about 10.7 minutes.

Tianwen-1 will now conduct multiple orbital corrections to enter a temporary Mars parking orbit, surveying potential landing sites in preparation to land in May or June.