Focus: GS-III Science and Technology
Why in news?
The Tianwen-1 mission launched atop a Long March 5 rocket and is now on its way to Mars.
- Tianwen-1 is China’s first fully homegrown Mars mission.
- The success of the mission will make China the third country to achieve a Mars landing after the USSR and the United States.
- Tianwen-1 is an all-in-one orbiter, lander and rover will search the Martian surface for water, ice, investigate soil characteristics, and study the atmosphere, among completing other objectives.
- The Tianwen-1 mission will lift off on a Long March 5 rocket, and will carry 13 payloads (seven orbiters and six rovers) that will explore the planet.
- The mission’s launch in July was confirmed on 24th May by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), which has been working on the project since 2016.
- 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.
- 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.
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).
- 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.
- 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