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China’s Tianwen-1 orbiter has mapped the entire surface of Mars

The Indian Express logo The Indian Express 04-07-2022 Tech Desk
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China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced this week that the orbiter and rover of the country’s Tianwen-1 probe have both completed their targeted scientific exploration missions. After operating for 706 days and circling the red planet over 1,344 times, the orbiter of Tianwen-1 has acquired medium-resolution image data that covers the whole globe of Mars.

The Tianwen-1 probe consists of an orbiter, a lander and a rover named Zhurong. It touched at its landing area in the vast Martian plain of Utopia Planitia on May 15 last year, marking the first time that China landed a probe on the planet. Zhurong started patrolling the planet on May 22, 2021 and finished its 90-Martian-day mission on August 15 the same year but continue further exploration.

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The rover traveled a total of 1,921.5 metres on the surface of Mars till May 18 this year, when it was switched to dormant mode due to the cold winter and dusty weather on the planet. CNSA says that it will resume operations again sometime around December this year when working conditions get better.

The rover and the orbiter have collected over 1,040 GB of raw scientific data with their 13 onboard scientific payloads after two years of flight and exploration. After the data is completely received and processed on Earth, it will be turned into standard scientific data products and then, they will be delivered to scientists for further analysis and interpreted monthly. According to CNSA. the data will be open to scientists worldwide and “China welcomes global scientists to apply for related research and jointly push forward the exploration of the universe.”

CNSA says that it has already shared the data with NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) and that it has cooperated with them in collision forecasting. Zhurong and ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft also performed an in-orbit relay communication test.

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