10th February, marks two years since China’s groundbreaking Tianwen-1 mission to Mars began. The orbiter and rover have been on a quest to uncover the secrets of the Red Planet, and they’ve already made some remarkable discoveries. Over the past two years, Tianwen-1 has collected valuable data and achieved notable scientific results that analysts believe will only continue as further exploration missions are carried out.
It was a journey of 470 million kilometers, but on February 10th, 2021, the Tianwen-1 probe finally entered Mars orbit, becoming China’s first satellite to reach the planet. According to the China National Space Administration, the mission is aimed at exploring the surface and geology of Mars, as well as studying its soil composition and magnetic field.
And the mission didn’t waste any time. Just three months after entering orbit, the Tianwen-1 probe made history as it touched down in the vast Martian plain of Utopia Planitia on May 15th, 2021. This marked the first time that China had landed a probe on the planet. A week later, the rover Zhurong, shaped like a butterfly, began its journey to the Martian surface. And on June 11th, the world got its first glimpse of the Red Planet through the eyes of Zhurong as the China National Space Administration released its first photographs.
Before landing on Mars, the orbiter captured panchromatic images of the landing area with a resolution greater than 1 meter, as well as wide-area color images and multispectral information. And once it reached the surface, the orbiter continued its imaging exploration to get high-resolution images.
In June 2022, the CNSA announced that the Mars Orbiter had collected medium resolution image data covering the entire planet, providing a wealth of first-hand scientific data and valuable experience for China’s ongoing planetary exploration efforts. The orbiter platform has also provided significant results in terms of engineering data.
Even when communications were temporarily blocked by the sun in September to October 2021, Tianwen-1 still obtained valuable research results on topics like the velocity of coronal plasma ejections and the structure of coronal waves.
And the mission only continued to gather steam, as in November 2021, the Mars orbiter carried out global remote sensing scientific exploration of the planet with seven science payloads.
China has big plans for its space program, including continued lunar exploration with the Chang’e-6, Chang’e-7, and Chang’e-8 missions, the construction of an international lunar research station, and even a future asteroid probe and sample retrieval missions from near-Earth asteroids and Mars.
It’s a mission that has already yielded incredible results, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for Tianwen-1 and China’s quest to explore the universe