China plans to launch its first Mars exploration mission Tianwen-1 between July and August, Bao Weimin, academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences and director of the Science and Technology Commission at the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, has told CCTV while sharing details about the mission.
According to the plan, the Mars probe will release a rover after a soft landing on the planet and the rover will stay on Mars for 90 Mars sols, or days, on a variety of missions, including reconnaissance and exploration of the Martian landscape.
"A day on Mars is about 24 hours and 37 minutes, the designed life of the rover is 90 Mars sols, more than three months on Earth," Bao explained in the interview.
Due to the long distance, the exploration of the red planet requires precisely timing its proximity to Earth, which occurs only once every 26 months.
"The Mars probe with be within the gravitational field and potential of Mars next February, and will reach its destination after capture by the planet," Bao said.
At its closest, Mars is about 55 million kilometers away from Earth. Ensuring the probe is captured successfully by Mars is the key to the mission.
"The probe will pass by the Mars if the capture failed," Bao told CCTV, adding that the probe will enter the orbit of Mars once captured, and could then detect the planet after several modulations.
According to the academician, the landing process is about seven to eight minutes, and the speed of the probe needs to reduce from 4.8 kilometers per second to 0 kilometer per second.
11 missions in the next 2 to 3 years
Following the maiden flight of the country's Long March-5B carrier rocket on May 5, China plans to conduct another 11 launch missions starting from next year to complete the construction of China's "Tiangong" space station around 2022.
"We're going to conduct three launches for the station's core module along with two experimental modules, four launches for manned spacecraft, and four for cargo spacecraft," said Bao.
So far, China has completed the assembly of the prototype of "Tianhe," the space station's core module. The two experiment capsules dubbed "Wentian" and "Mengtian," as well as scientific payloads, are under development.
The service life of the space station is expected to be about 10 to 15 years.