So far, the Tianwen 1 has been flying for 197 days and has covered over 465 million kilometres.
The black and white image was captured by Tianwen 1 when it was 2.2 million km away from Mars. (Image: CNSA)
China’s Mars Mission: China’s Mars probe, the Tianwen 1, has sent a black and white image of the Red Planet back to the Earth, marking the first image that the spacecraft has transmitted to the control room on Earth. This came as the Tianwen 1 carried out the fourth orbital correction on Friday, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said in a statement. The orbital correction is part of Tianwen 1’s preparation to enter the orbit of Mars around February 10. One of the engines of the spacecraft was ignited in the evening so that the orbital correction could take place. This would ensure that Tianwen 1 flew in the correct direction, so as to get closer to the gravitational field of the Red Planet.
So far, the Tianwen 1 has been flying for 197 days and has covered over 465 million kilometres. At its current position, it is at a distance of 184 million kilometres from the Earth. On the other hand, it is much closer to the Red Planet, with a distance of only 1.1 million kilometres. The distance between the Earth and Mars varies between 55 million kilometres and 400 million kilometres, depending on their positions on their respective orbits.
The image that Tianwen 1 sent to CNSA was taken when the spacecraft had been at twice its current distance from the Red Planet, i.e., when it was around 2.2 million kilometres away from Mars.
Tianwen 1 is an important mission for China because it marks the first independent Mars mission that the country has sent. It had in 2011 attempted to send a probe to the Red Planet on a Russian rocket, but the mission had failed. Tianwen 1, however, had been launched by the country in July last year on the Long March 5 carrier rocket, which had taken off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center located in Hainan province. With this, the country kicked off its planetary exploration programme.
The spacecraft would be captured by the gravity of the Red Planet after it would perform a braking operation to decelerate itself. The probe contains two parts, an orbiter and a landing capsule, and the mission’s main target is to conduct the soft landing of its rover on the Martian surface in May. The country has zeroed in on the impact basin called Utopia for the landing of its rover, and once landed, the mission would conduct scientific surveys.