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Tianwen-1 Is in Mars Orbit

Feb. 10 , 2021 (EIRNS)—China’s Tianwen-1 orbiter fired its engine at 6:52 a.m. EST (11:52 UTC) today to slow down, and get pulled into Mars’ orbit, joining the United Arab Emirates’ Hope, which arrived yesterday. Unlike any of the first Mars missions ever sent by other countries, China’s Tianwen-1 consists of not just an orbiter, but also a lander and rover.

It is a very high-risk approach, but since one can only launch to Mars every 26 months, it will save a lot of time to combine two steps. Over the next two to three months, the orbiter will be photographing the red planet to allow the scientists and engineers to choose a landing spot which is both interesting and safe. The rover will be deployed in May or June and spend three months studying Mars, looking especially for underground water.

Speculation has already started as to which nation will deploy the first sample return mission—the U.S. or China—which is an important step ahead of manned missions.

Happily, NASA Associate Administrator for Science Missions Thomas Zurbuchen sent a message by Twitter this morning: “Congratulations to China for the Tianwen-1 mission successfully entering Mars orbit today. There is much to discover about the mysteries of Mars and we look forward to your contributions!”

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