China's Mars probe successfully reaches red planet
One day after UAE's Hope orbiter reached Mars, China's more ambitious Tianwen-1 spacecraft, carrying state-of-the-art instruments, a lander, and a six-wheel rover, slipped into an orbit around the red planet Wednesday after a seven-month voyage from Earth.
Tianwen-1's arrival came just eight days before NASA's $2.4 billion Perseverance rover enters the Martian atmosphere to look for signs of past microbial life in and around an ancient river delta and lakebed deposits.
Perseverance is the most technologically advanced spacecraft ever sent to Mars, but Tianwen-1, the first all-Chinese mission to the red planet and its most sophisticated space probe to date, demonstrates the growing maturity and reach of China's space program.
Tianwen-1, launched 23 July 2020, from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island, needed seven months to complete its long flight to Mars. The probe reached its target Wednesday, firing its main engine for about 15 minutes to slow down enough to be captured by the red planet's gravity.
"China's first Mars probe Tianwen-1 has successfully entered the orbit of the red planet after a crucial 'brake' to decelerate and be captured by Mars gravity," tweeted CGTN, a state-owned English language channel.