Skip to main content

Mars receives second visitor in a week as China’s Tianwen-1 arrives

China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft has entered orbit around Mars, becoming the second in two days to perform the feat following the arrival of the United Arab Emirates’ Hope orbiter on Tuesday.

Tianwen-1, translated as “Questions to Heaven,” is notable for its ambitious three-part payload comprising an orbiter, lander, and rover, marking the first time for a space agency to send three such craft to Mars at the same time.

The orbiter will use its scientific instruments to learn more about Mars’ atmosphere and climate, while also mapping the planet’s surface. The lander will attempt to deliver the rover to the planet’s Utopia Planitia, an expansive rock-strewn plain. There it will study the Martian landscape for evidence of both current and past life. Tianwen-1 has already sent back some goodies, last week beaming an image to Earth on its approach to Mars from a distance of around a million miles.

Commenting on Wednesday’s arrival at Mars seven months after Tianwen-1 blasted off from Earth aboard a Long March-5 rocket, Zhang Kejian, director of the China National Space Administration, said: “Exploring the vast universe is the common dream of all mankind. We will cooperate sincerely and go hand in hand with countries all over the world to make mankind’s exploration of space go further.”

China now stands proudly alongside the UAE, the U.S., Europe, India, and the former Soviet Union as one of only a handful of nations that have made it all the way to Mars.

The Asian giant is clearly on a roll with its expanding space program. This is its first fully homegrown mission to Mars and follows a recent successful moon landing that saw it transport a haul of lunar rocks to Earth.

With the UAE and China having successfully reached the red planet, all eyes are now on NASA’s Perseverance mission, which is set to arrive on February 18. The team is aiming to land its rover on the Martian surface at the start of an ambitious expedition aimed at providing scientists with more information about the fourth rock from the sun.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
We’re going to the red planet! All of the past, present, and future missions to Mars

SpaceX founder Elon Musk says travel to Mars is within reach, with the possibility of having 1 million people living on Mars within 100 years. SpaceX isn't alone in working toward reaching Mars, however. In fact, there are quite a number of missions, both crewed and uncrewed, that are currently planned or under proposal from government space organizations and private space flight companies across the globe.

Exploration of Mars and eventual human travel to it are nothing new. While manned missions have remained financial and logistical near-impossibilities, unmanned missions began in 1960. There have been around 50 Mars missions so far, of which about half have been successful -- a testament to the difficulty in reaching the red planet.

Read more
China’s Zhurong rover rolls onto Martian surface for first time
The view from the Zhurong rover as it deploys from its lander.

Mars is getting busy, with NASA's Perseverance and Curiosity rovers and InSight landers being joined by a new explorer: China's Zhurong rover. Arriving last week and recently sending back its first images from the red planet, Zhurong has now rolled onto the martian surface for the first time.

The view from the Zhurong rover as it deploys from its lander. CNSA

Read more
China’s Zhurong rover beams back its first Mars images
chinas zhurong rover beams back its first mars images image 2

It's not just NASA that has a rover on the red planet. China made its first Mars rover landing just a few days ago, and on Wednesday, the nation’s space agency posted the first images of the vehicle in its new surroundings.

The black-and-white picture below was snapped by China's Zhurong rover using one of its obstacle-avoidance cameras attached to the front of the vehicle. It shows the lander’s ramp extending to the surface of Mars, creating a sturdy path for the six-wheeled vehicle to safely reach the Martian surface. “The terrain of the rover's forward direction is clearly visible in the image," the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said in notes accompanying the pictures, adding that the horizon appears curved due to the camera's wide-angle lens.

Read more