Feb, 2021 - By WMR
The CNSA (China National Space Administration) recently confirmed that the Tianwen-1 spacecraft is preparing to arrive at the Red Planet’s orbit on 10 February 2021.
The orbiter, which started its journey over 24 weeks ago, has crossed a distance of 130 kilometers from Earth and was 8.3 million kilometers away from Mars on 3 January 2021 as confirmed by the CNSA. The Chinese space agency also stated that all systems onboard the Tianwen-1 are functioning smoothly, and the probe will burn its engines enough to easily adjust to Mars' gravity. Tianwen-1 will be around 190 million kilometers from the Earth when it arrives in the Martian orbit covering a distance of around 470 million kilometers, the CNSA stated.
It will not be possible to control Tianwen-1 from the ground station or execute commands in real time due to the great distance between Earth and the spacecraft. This means there is a lightspeed communication delay of approximately 10 minutes between the two. Deputy Commander of the mission, Li Zhencai, from the CAST (China Academy of Space Technology) which built the Tianwen-1, has confirmed that preparations are already underway to enter the Martian orbit. Li told the Chinese media that the team aims to execute all the commands and joint maneuvers with the Beijing Aerospace Control Center by 24 January 2021. He also confirmed that a fourth trajectory correction exercise is underway to ensure Tianwen-1 stays on the correct route for entering the Red Planet’s orbit.
The spacecraft will start prepping for a landing attempt after entering the orbit. The target landing site for the orbiter is Utopia Planitia, a large impact crater south of the Viking 2, NASA’s landing site. The preparation is likely to take a while, according to the CNSA, and the landing may not be possible before May.