China landed a spacecraft on Mars carrying its first Mars rover in a big boost to its space ambitions.
GS-III: Science and technology (Space Technology, Important developments in Space technology)
Dimensions of the Article:
- About China’s Tianwen-1
- China’s advancements in space
- Previous Mars missions
- Why Mars exploration?
About China’s Tianwen-1
- China launched its first Mars mission, called Tianwen-1, in July 2020 carrying a lander and rover. Tianwen-1 is China’s first fully indigenous Mars mission.
- Tianwen-1 had been in orbit since February 2021 and on May 2021 a lander descended successfully on to the surface of the red planet carrying a rover named Zhurong, named after a god of fire for a planet known in Chinese as the planet of fire.
- Tianwen-1 aims to study Martian topography and geology and determine the composition of the surface material, climate and environment.
- The Chinese mission will be the first to place a ground-penetrating radar on the Martian surface, which will be able to study local geology, as well as rock, ice, and dirt distribution.
- Only the Soviet Union and the United States had previously carried out a successful landing on Mars.
- China’s previous ‘Yinghuo-1’ Mars mission, which had piggybacked on a Russian spacecraft, had failed after it could not leave the Earth’s orbit and disintegrated over the Pacific Ocean in 2012.
China’s advancements in space
- The Mars mission Tianwen-1, along with China’s lunar mission and its space station, are key elements in its space programme.
- In 2019, the fourth lunar probe, Chang’e-4, carried out the world’s first landing on the far side of the moon.
- China is also investing heavily in its manned space programme, as plans accelerate for its first space station, set to be functional by the end of 2022 and only the second space station after the International Space Station.
Previous Mars missions
- The USSR in 1971 became the first country to carry out a Mars landing– its ‘Mars 3’ lander being able to transmit data for 20 seconds from the Martian surface before failing.
- The country made its second and Mars landing two years later in 1973.
- The second country to reach Mars’s surface, the US, holds the record for the highest number of Mars landings.
- Since 1976, it has achieved 8 successful Mars landings, the latest being the ‘InSight’ in 2019 (launched in 2018).
- Perseverance: NASA’s rover Perseverance will look for signs of habitable conditions on Mars and microbial life in its ancient past. The rover is equipped with specialised equipment to collect data, analyse weather conditions that can help plan for future human missions, and produce oxygen from the carbon-dioxide-rich atmosphere.
- India and the European Space Agency have been able to place their spacecraft in Mars’s orbit.
- India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) or ‘Mangalyaan’ was able to do so in September 2014, almost a year after its launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh.
Why Mars exploration?
- Mars, the Red Planet, has several Earth-like features– such as clouds, polar ice caps, canyons, volcanoes, and seasonal weather patterns.
- For ages, scientists have wondered whether Mars can support life.
- In the past few years, Mars missions have been able to discover the possible presence of liquid water on the planet, either in the subsurface today or at some point in its past.
- Another significant point is: exploration of Mars will pave the way for other missions to planets farther away and hence are very important for the future missions.
Why is July 2020 the picked time for several missions?
The end of July 2020 offers a launch window during which Earth and Mars will be aligned at their closest points in two years, which means using less fuel to reach the planet. If a spacecraft is launched too early or too late, it will arrive in the planet’s orbit when the planet is not there.
- The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also called Mangalyaan, is a space probe orbiting Mars since 24 September 2014.
- It was launched on 5 November 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
- It is India’s first interplanetary mission and it made it the fourth space agency to reach Mars, after Roscosmos, NASA, and the European Space Agency.
- It made India the first Asian nation to reach Martian orbit and the first nation in the world to do so on its maiden attempt.
-Source: The Hindu