China's Tianwen-1 Mars rover rockets away from Earth

The Asian country's first surface mission to the Red Planet heads out on a Long March 5 rocket.

China has launched its first rover mission to Mars.

The six-wheeled robot, encapsulated in a protective probe, was lifted off Earth by a Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang spaceport on Hainan Island at 12:40 local time (04:40 GMT).

It should arrive in orbit around the Red Planet in February.

Called Tianwen-1, or "Questions to Heaven", the rover won't actually try to land on the surface for a further two to three months.

This wait-and-see strategy was used successfully by the American Viking landers in the 1970s. It will allow engineers to assess the atmospheric conditions on Mars before attempting what will be a hazardous descent. 

Tianwen-1 is one of three missions setting off to Mars in the space of 11 days.

On Monday, the United Arab Emirates launched its Hope satellite towards the Red Planet. And in a week from now, the US space agency (Nasa) aims to despatch its next-generation rover, Perseverance.

The targeted touchdown location for the Chinese mission will be a flat plain within the Utopia impact basin just north of Mars' equator. The rover will study the region's geology - at, and just below, the surface.

Tianwen-1 looks a lot like Nasa's Spirit and Opportunity rovers from the 2000s. It weighs some 240kg and is powered by fold-out solar panels.

A tall mast carries cameras to take pictures and aid navigation; five additional instruments will help assess the mineralogy of local rocks and look for any water-ice.

 

This surface investigation is really only half the mission, however, because the cruise ship that is shepherding the rover to Mars will also study the planet from orbit using a suite of seven remote-sensing instruments.

The historic statistics for the exploration of the Red Planet are well known: about a half of all ventures have failed. Indeed, China's first effort to send a satellite, Yinghuo-1, to the dusty world stalled in Earth orbit when its Russian carrier stage failed and fell back towards the Pacific Ocean.

So far, only the Americans have managed to run long-lived operations on Mars (The Soviets' Mars-3 and Europe's Beagle-2 missions got down but failed shortly after).

China, however, can take confidence from the successes of its two recent Chang'e Yutu lunar rovers, the second of which made the first ever soft landing on the far side of the Moon last year.

The country's engineers will believe they are now ready to tackle the infamous "seven minutes of terror" - the time it takes for a spacecraft to make the perilous trip from the top of Mars' atmosphere to the ground.

"Entering, deceleration and landing (EDL) is a very difficult (process). We believe China's EDL process can still be successful, and the spacecraft can land safely," mission spokesperson Liu Tongjie was quoted as saying ahead of launch by the Reuters news agency.

Tianwen-1 will use a combination of a capsule, parachute and a retro-rocket to burn off entry speed and slow itself to a stop right at the surface. If all goes well, the landing mechanism will then deploy a ramp to enable the rover to begin its traverse across the Martian plain.

Chinese scientists would like to get at least 90 Martian days of service out of the robot. A day, or Sol, on Mars lasts 24 hours and 39 minutes.

"It's incredibly exciting to see what China is doing," observed Dr Rain Irshad, autonomous systems leader at RAL Space in the UK.

"Their space agency was only formed in 1993, and yet here they are, less than 30 years later, sending an orbiter, a lander and a rover to Mars.

"But they put themselves through a training programme with their Chang'e missions at the Moon. It's very impressive the way they've been banging out the lunar missions one after the other." BBC

 
 

Other News

.
ASEAN+3 countries  talk ways to ensure cyber security
ASEAN+3 countries talk ways to ensure cyber security
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  30/12/2020 

ASEAN+3 must work together to complete a legal framework for cyber security, looking towards building common ASEAN rules and standards for information security based on voluntary codes of conduct, said Deputy Minister of Public Security Bui Van Nam.

Vietnam International Innovation Expo to feature over 150 booths
Vietnam International Innovation Expo to feature over 150 booths
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  30/12/2020 

More than 150 booths introducing innovative solutions and products will be open at the Vietnam International Innovation Expo 2021 (VIIE 2021), a press conference held in Hanoi on December 29 was told.

Vietnam steps up transfer, mastery of technologies from abroad
Vietnam steps up transfer, mastery of technologies from abroad
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  30/12/2020 

The Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) will speed up a scheme on promoting the transfer, mastery, and development of technology from abroad in priority fields to 2025 with orientations to 2030.

Long An to build new anti-landslide embankment
Long An to build new anti-landslide embankment
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  29/12/2020 

A new 1.2km-long embankment worth VND300 billion (US$12.9 million) will be built to prevent landslides along Vam Co Tay River in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Long An next year.

Top 10 cybersecurity events in 2020
Top 10 cybersecurity events in 2020
FEATUREicon  29/12/2020 

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) of the Authority of Information Security has announced the 10 most outstanding cybersecurity events in 2020.

Network operators offer customers a subsidy for smartphones
Network operators offer customers a subsidy for smartphones
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  29/12/2020 

Around 22 million subscribers out of total 130 million mobile phone subscribers in Vietnam use 2G, according to the Authority of Telecommunications (AOT).

University students make bricks from plastic waste
University students make bricks from plastic waste
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  29/12/2020 

A team of third-year students at the HCM City University of Technology has developed lightweight bricks from plastic waste.

Hack4Growth-Covid Endgame contest names winners
Hack4Growth-Covid Endgame contest names winners
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  28/12/2020 

The Global Association of Vietnamese Scientists and Experts (AVSE Global) organised an award ceremony for the Hack4Growth-Covid Endgame innovation contest in Hanoi on December 26.

Strong cold spell expected ahead of New Year holiday
Strong cold spell expected ahead of New Year holiday
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  27/12/2020 

People in northern Vietnam will brace themselves for a very strong cold spell which is currently moving southward and is forecast to strike the region on December 29.

Travel agencies pledge to protect Vietnam’s wildlife
Travel agencies pledge to protect Vietnam’s wildlife
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  26/12/2020 

Representatives from 30 tour operators and travel agencies recently signed a pledge to support responsible tourism, nature conservation and wildlife protection during a training workshop at Cat Tien National Park.

Make in Vietnam: Becoming a technology giant after years of sluggish progress
Make in Vietnam: Becoming a technology giant after years of sluggish progress
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  26/12/2020 

Over the years, we have always been in the position of a technology outsourcing country. So what is the road to develop Vietnamese technology businesses?

Prime Minister: "Digital technology enterprises must pioneer in innovation"
Prime Minister: "Digital technology enterprises must pioneer in innovation"
FEATUREicon  26/12/2020 

At the National Forum on Developing Digital Technology Businesses 2020, Deputy Minister of Information and Communications Phan Tam read a letter from Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to the Vietnamese digital technology business community.

“Make in Vietnam” and "tell your Vietnamese story":  MIC Minister
“Make in Vietnam” and "tell your Vietnamese story": MIC Minister
FEATUREicon  25/12/2020 

Minister of Information and Communications (MIC) Nguyen Manh Hung has called on every Vietnamese citizen and enterprise to take part in “Make in Vietnam” and tell their own Vietnamese story.

Unified corporate governance platform launched
Unified corporate governance platform launched
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  25/12/2020 

More than 12,000 enterprises are currently using the MISA AMIS platform, which is one of the digital platforms under the Make in Vietnam campaign, helping enterprises embark on the digital transformation process.

Nearly 2 million mobile subscribers successfully switch between carriers
Nearly 2 million mobile subscribers successfully switch between carriers
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  25/12/2020 

Vietnam Telecommunications Authority (under the Ministry of Information and Communications) and domestic telecoms businesses have just held a summary meeting for the scheme ‘Mobile Number Portability – MNP’.

Mobile number portability marks big step forward for Vietnam’s telecom
Mobile number portability marks big step forward for Vietnam’s telecom
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  26/12/2020 

Nearly two million mobile subscribers have switched to other mobile networks in the last two years under mobile number portability (MNP).

Vietnam's top 10 science and technology events in 2020
Vietnam's top 10 science and technology events in 2020
FEATUREicon  25/12/2020 

The 10 events were voted on by 60 science and technology journalists at 25 media agencies throughout the country.

Project aims to complete natural resources, environment database
Project aims to complete natural resources, environment database
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  25/12/2020 

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has approved a project to complete a database on natural resources and the environment connected with the information systems and databases of ministries, sectors, and localities.

Open sources crucial for development of AI
Open sources crucial for development of AI
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  27/12/2020 

According to some reports, Vietnam now ranks 21st in the world in terms of the development of artificial intelligence (AI), which is expected to contribute 12% to the country’s GDP. 

Vietnam’s first AI Robot excites techies
Vietnam’s first AI Robot excites techies
SCI-TECH & ENVIRONMENTicon  26/12/2020 

Tri Nhan, the first robot built in Vietnam with artificial intelligence (AI), is expected to be the future of teaching. With the ability to do maths, solve problems, and even read poems, the robot could one day become a teaching assistant.

 
 
 
Leave your comment on an article

OR QUICK LOGIN