Tech Breakdown: Five facts about China's first Mars mission Tianwen-1
Updated 10:37, 03-Aug-2020

China launched its first-ever Mars mission, the Tianwen-1. If everything goes as planned, the probe will enter the Martian orbit in February next year. 

As we wait for updates on the Mars probe, here are five facts about the mission.

1. What does the name 'Tianwen' mean? 

"Tianwen" means "Questions to Heaven." It comes from a poem written by the ancient Chinese poet Qu Yuan. 

In the poem, Qu Yuan raises a series of questions about the sky, the stars, and natural phenomena, showing his desire for the truth, which perfectly fits this mission. 

2. What does the probe look like? 

The Tianwen-1 Mars probe consists of an orbiter, a lander, and a rover. 

The orbiter will circle the Red Planet to explore from above, the lander will land the probe and conduct ground detection at a fixed location, and the rover will circulate in the planet to explore various sites. 

3. Why launch now? 

For an expedition to Mars, a launch window opens every 26 months. In this window, the Earth and Mars are properly aligned on the same side of the sun, meaning the journey will require less rocket fuel and time. 

The launch window for China's Tianwen-1 mission is between July and August this year. If China missed this window, it would have to wait another two years.

4. What are the odds of a successful landing? 

A successful soft landing on Mars is very hard. 

The probe is flying to Mars at an ultra-high speed, so braking in the thin Martian atmosphere presents a big challenge. 

The lander will need to reduce its speed from about 20,000 km/h to zero in only seven minutes. This step can determine the success or failure of the mission. 

Seven minutes are not enough to complete an Earth-Mars communication, so the entire landing process will need to be done independently by the probe. 

There is also no room for error in terms of hardware and software if the landing is to be successful.

5. What is Tianwen-1 mission? 

The primary mission is to detect signs of life on Mars. Is there life on the planet? Was there life in the past? How are the conditions and the environment? These are some of the questions the probe will try to answer.

Secondly, the probe will help examine the atmosphere, landscape, geological and magnetic characteristics on Mars. These data will provide clues to the origin and evolution of Mars and the solar system. 

Last but not least, the Mars probe may reveal whether the Red Planet has the potential to be a second home for human beings. 

Stay tuned to CGTN and we will bring you more about the Tianwen-1 mission. 

Scriptwriter: Guo Meiping, Pan Zhaoyi

Producer: Guo Meiping

Cameraman: Wang Yilin

Video editor: Zhao Yuxiang

Animation: Pan Yufei

Cover image: Jia Jieqiong