China’s First Mars Mission, Tianwen-1, Reaches the Red Planet

China’s First Mars Mission, Tianwen-1, Reaches the Red Planet

The nation’s first fully homegrown Mars mission, Tianwen-1, arrived in orbit around the Red Planet today (Feb. 10), according to Chinese media reports. Among the rover’s gear are cameras, climate and geology instruments and ground-penetrating radar, which will hunt for pockets of water beneath Mars’ red dirt. (The Soviet Union pulled off the first-ever soft touchdown on the Red Planet with its Mars 3 mission in 1971, but that lander died less than two minutes after hitting the red dirt.) The Tianwen-1 orbiter is scheduled to operate for at least one Mars year (about 687 Earth days), and the rover’s targeted lifetime is 90 Mars days, or sols (about 93 Earth days). So we have a lot to look forward to in the coming days and weeks, and many reasons to keep our fingers crossed for multiple successful Red Planet touchdowns.

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