China has successfully launched a trio of spacecraft to the Red Planet that is one of its most ambitious mission – Tianwen-1 using the Long March 5 rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Hainan, China at 12:40 PM (BJT) on Wednesday, July 23rd, 2020.
The mission includes an orbiter, a lander and a rover that will reach the Red Planet in February 2021 after more than seven months of traveling in the space.
The mission is named Tianwen-1 — after the long poem “Tianwen,” which means “Questions to Heaven” — and it entails sending an orbiter, a lander, and a rover to Mars.
The three spacecraft will travel through deep space together and it will enter orbit around Mars in February 2021, eventually settling in a loop around the Red Planet ranging between 165 miles (265 kilometers) and nearly 7,500 miles (12,000 kilometers) over the Martian poles.
While the orbiter studies Mars from above, the lander and rover will make the daring plunge to the surface. The lander is tasked to perform a soft landing on the ground in one piece, keeping the rover safe, and providing a platform for the wheeled vehicle to roll out and explore.
If successful China will become the second nation to successfully land and operate a rover on Mars after the United States which landed the Mars Curiosity rover in August 2012 (launched in November 2011).
China became the first nation in space history to land and operate a rover on the far side of the Moon last year, while the country has planned a new mission to the Moon that brings back samples from the lunar surface.
Following the successful launch of UAE’s Hope spacecraft to Mars, now NASA’s Perseverance (July 30) will be the next in this year’s spacecraft launch to the Red Planet.