China launches missile for its first landing on Mars

China launched a rocket with a spaceship on board to Mars. The launch vehicle of the new, high-performance type “Long March 5” took off on Thursday from the space station in Wenchang on the south Chinese island of Hainan. The five-ton spaceship consists of an orbiter, a landing device and a vehicle the size of a golf cart.

Unlike other space nations, China plans to try landing on the Red Planet on its first independent Mars mission. The spaceship is scheduled to reach Mars in February, but will not land until two or three months later. The name “Tianwen-1” can be translated as “Questions to Heaven” and is borrowed from an ancient Chinese poem.

If the mission succeeds, China would be the second nation to land on Mars and operate a rover after the United States. Russia had landed in 1971, but communication broke down immediately after touchdown. A landing on Mars is considered to be particularly risky. So far, only half of all attempts have been successful. China’s mission is one of three flights to Mars this summer.

Mars is closest to Earth between July and August – a constellation like this only occurs every two years. In the early Monday morning, the United Arab Emirates launched the first Arabian Mars probe into space using a Japanese rocket. But it should not land. In a week, the United States plans to launch a spaceship to land on Mars with the Perseverance rover.

The Chinese launch was eagerly awaited because the new “Long March 5” rocket was deployed, and there had been some failures in its development.

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China starts its mission “Tianwen-1” to Mars

AThe publication by the scientists of the Chinese Academy of Space Technology and the Institute of Spacecraft System Engineering, which was published in “Science China” in May 2017 on the occasion of the first Chinese mission to Mars, speaks respect for the task ahead. It required decisive new technological developments, the hitherto technically untrained handling of a new and in many aspects unknown environment as well as extensive experimental preparations. In fact, the Chinese project is anything but modest. Right on the first mission to the red planet, called “Tianwen-1”, the Chinese want to achieve a triple goal: first, put a probe into planetary orbit, second, make a landing, and third, send a rover to explore the surface.

At the beginning of last year, however, China already showed that it, as a space nation, has grown to face complex challenges. For the first time, as part of the “Chang’e 4” mission, it realized a soft landing on the back of the moon, where the rover “Yutu-2” has been exploring the surface since then. For the landing, it was necessary to bring a satellite close to the Earth-Moon Lagrangian point L2, where it remains around 60,000 kilometers beyond the moon in a constant relative position to the moon and earth and can be used as a relay for communication .

Many elements of the know-how acquired in the previous lunar missions will now also be helpful when traveling to Mars, although the task differs significantly in various respects: Mars is around a thousand times as far away. Correspondingly, messages are on the way for about 20 minutes instead of just under one and a half seconds, so that missions there have to operate much more independently of ground control. The dusty and rough surface of Mars brings with it special imponderables, in addition, the solar radiation received on Mars is weaker.

However, landing on our neighboring planet is particularly difficult, especially when compared to the moon. In the thin atmosphere, a strong braking must be achieved so that a landing module does not break. The Chinese are expecting the 240 kilogram lander’s entry speed to be almost five kilometers per second (18,000 kilometers per hour) at a height of 125 kilometers, which must be dismantled within seven minutes. Due to the interaction with the atmosphere, the lander heats up and must be protected from the heat. At the same time, the atmosphere is too thin to allow the use of a parachute. Brake rockets must therefore be used as a support.

The international mission statistics show how challenging this is: out of 18 landing attempts, only ten have so far been successful: nine American and one Russian. In order to give the mission enough space and a little more time for landing, the Chinese have chosen two possible landing sites in the Utopia Planitia lowlands, which are not far from the landing sites of NASA’s two Viking probes. The landing should take place two to three months after the arrival of the mission in February 2021, the orbiter will then serve as a relay for communication with the rover, but will also carry out its own scientific observations. For this he carries seven instruments on board – cameras, ground radar, spectrometer, magnetometer and instruments for the analysis of cosmic particle radiation. Six other instruments are on board the rover.

The scientific objectives of the mission are accordingly extensive. The morphology and geological structure of Mars are to be mapped, the surface is to be examined with regard to soil, rock and ice distribution and its chemical composition, the ionosphere and the climate are being researched, and the electromagnetic and gravitational field of Mars is to be measured that also conclusions about the interior of the planet are possible. The mission should start at the earliest on Thursday morning from the Wechang cosmodrome on Hainan Island with a Long March 5 rocket.

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China launches missile for its first landing on Mars

China launched a rocket with a spaceship on board to Mars. The launch vehicle of the new, high-performance type “Long March 5” took off on Thursday from the space station in Wenchang on the south Chinese island of Hainan. The five-ton spaceship consists of an orbiter, a landing device and a vehicle the size of a golf cart.

Unlike other space nations, China is trying to land on the Red Planet during its first independent Mars mission. The spaceship is scheduled to reach Mars in February, but will not land until two or three months later. The name “Tianwen-1” can be translated as “Questions to Heaven” and is borrowed from an ancient Chinese poem.

If the mission succeeds, China would be the second nation to land on Mars and operate a rover after the United States. Russia had landed in 1971, but communication broke down immediately after touchdown. A landing on Mars is considered to be particularly risky. So far, only half of all attempts have been successful. China’s mission is one of three flights to Mars this summer.

Mars is closest to Earth between July and August – a constellation like this only occurs every two years. In the early Monday morning, the United Arab Emirates launched the first Arabian Mars probe into space using a Japanese rocket. But it should not land. In a week, the United States plans to launch a spaceship to land on Mars with the Perseverance rover.

The Chinese launch was eagerly awaited because the new “Long March 5” rocket was deployed, and there had been some failures in its development.

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Start of the “Hope” mission: exploration of the Martian atmosphere

HThe engineers and scientists around computer scientist Sarah Al Amiri had a day or two to create a scientific concept for the “Hope” mission to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Mars. The main requirements: launch of the 2020 probe, a budget that is rather manageable for a planetary mission and the desire to achieve scientific knowledge that could not be provided by other previous missions.

That was 2014. In the summer, the UAE announced its plans to launch a Mars mission just six years later – a more than ambitious announcement for the young nation without significant scientific and technological space experience. The Emirates had only entered the space sector in 2006 and had initially developed earth observation satellites with the support of South Korea. A mission to Mars, it is hoped, would bring about a decisive expansion of the country’s technological and scientific expertise against the background of the dwindling importance of the oil industry. “The greater the challenge, the greater the skills that are developed,” is how Al Amiri summarizes the economic motivation.

At the same time, the next year, when the mission is to reach Mars, coincides with the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UAE. Against this background, Hope should help to inspire future generations for science and technology.

Sarah Al Amiri is a computer scientist and Minister of Science of the United Arab Emirates since 2017.

However, it is important for Al Amiri to emphasize that despite this political and economic significance, the mission is essentially a scientific one: “With the mission we do not simply want to send a probe to Mars to take a photo there and announce that we are arrived there, ”she clarifies. The objectives of the mission were rather set based on arguments from scientists around the world.

In fact, in 2014 Al Amiri initially sought the opinions of international researchers and engineers who had experience designing space missions, and used the scientific goals defined by NASA in relation to Mars exploration as a guide.

The end result was a plan to better study the climate of Mars by closely observing its atmospheric dynamics. The new thing is the orbiter’s special trajectory. While the orbits of the other probes orbiting Mars have a steep incline relative to the equator, Hope will move significantly closer to the equator. This will allow the probe to measure atmospheric conditions at different local times of day and over the course of the Martian year. The probe will also track how oxygen and hydrogen are released from the exosphere, the outermost layer of the atmosphere, into the interplanetary medium, and finally how this release is influenced by processes in the lower atmosphere. The probe is scheduled to launch tonight at 11:58 p.m. Central European Summer Time (9:58:14 p.m. GMT) on board a Japanese H-IIA rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center.

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Countdown to three Mars missions – spectrum of science

If everything goes as planned, Tianwen-1 will be the first mission to visit the Red Planet simultaneously with an orbiter, a landing probe and a rover. As soon as the combined spaceship reaches Mars, the orbiter will release the lander and rover into the Martian atmosphere. The Chinese team has already identified two potential areas north of the equator for landing on the Utopia Planitia plains. This emerged from a lecture by Wei Yan from the National Astronomical Observatories in Beijing, which he gave at the European Planetary Research Congress in Geneva, Switzerland last September.

The landing probe is equipped with a parachute and is said to float to the ground and touch down on its four legs. The approximately 200 kilogram rover will then extend its solar panels, drive down a ramp and explore the surroundings autonomously for the rest of its 90-day period, which lasts 24 hours and 37 minutes. During the rover’s mission, the orbiter serves as a communication link to Earth. It is said to be placed in a near orbit and to observe the planet from there for a whole year of Mars.

The Chinese team equipped the orbiter with a total of eight and the rover with five instruments. The orbiter’s radar system can point up to 100 meters below the surface to map geological structures and search for water and ice. High-resolution cameras will collect images of geological features such as dunes, glaciers and volcanoes and provide clues as to their formation. Both the orbiter and the rover will carry spectrometers to study geological structures and the composition of soil and rock. The team also plans to collect atmospheric data such as temperature, air pressure, wind speed and direction, and to record magnetic and gravitational fields on Mars.

“Similar instruments have been sent to Mars on previous missions,” says Raymond Arvidson, a planetary geologist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. “But Mars is large and has a complex geological history, so the data generated by Tianwen-1 will provide information about regions that have not been covered by previous observations,” says Arvidson. He would like the Chinese to share the data with other scientists. In this context, the planetary geologist refers to a free public archive of geoscientific data, which is managed by his university and NASA and in which geoscientific data was collected from many previous planetary explorations.

Dmitrij Titov, project scientist for ESA’s Mars Express, launched in 2003, says the Chinese orbiter could outlast some of the “veterans” nearing the end of their lives – including Mars Express, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the Orbiter Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, known as MAVEN. The Chinese’s continual surveillance of the planet will benefit the astronomical community at a time when many other space agencies will be busy planning sample retrieval missions, Titov said. In fact, China is also pursuing its own plans to have collected and returned samples from Mars by 2030.

The United Arab Emirates’ interplanetary hope

The United Arab Emirates had big dreams when they decided to fly to Mars with a probe. Accordingly, they chose the name “Hope” (Arabic “Al-Amal”) for their orbiter, meaning “hope”. Hope is scheduled to launch from Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima, Japan, during a three-week window starting July 15, 2020.

If successful, the Emirates’ Mars Mission (EMM) will not only be the first interplanetary company in an Arab nation, but will also create the first global weather map of Mars. Earlier probes moved in orbits, which allowed them to observe parts of the atmosphere at limited times of the day. In this way, they were already able to provide a composite picture of the atmosphere. Hope’s huge elliptical orbit will, however, allow the orbiter to view large regions of Mars under both day and night conditions. In every 55-hour orbit, it covers almost the entire planet. “We will be able to observe all of Mars at all times of the day for a whole Martian year,” said Sarah Al Amiri, scientific director of the project and Minister for Advanced Science. The visible light camera and the probe’s infrared spectrometer will examine the Martian clouds and dust storms in the lower atmosphere. The probe’s ultraviolet spectrometer will monitor gases in the upper atmosphere. “This is the first mission that will provide a global picture of Mars’ atmospheric dynamics,” says Hessa Al Matroushi, a member of the EMM science team.

The United Arab Emirates Hope spacecraftLaden…

Hope (Al-Amal) spacecraft | The Mars probe of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is said to fly in an elliptical orbit at a distance of 22,000 to 44,000 kilometers around the planet. The probe has two spectrometers on board and a high-resolution camera that is used to collect information on how the atmosphere changes over the course of a Martian day and Martian year.

During her two-year mission, Hope will keep track of daily weather fluctuations and changing seasons. The orbiter is intended not only to assist in the preparation of future manned missions, but also to show how hydrogen and oxygen escape from the atmosphere into space. This could help scientists understand the Martian climate and reconstruct how Mars lost its once thick atmosphere.

The team worked with international staff to formulate its scientific goals. The data obtained would be made available to the international community without an embargo period, says Al Amiri. “The Emiratis were very interested that this would not just be a technology demonstrator, but that it would contribute to the scientific understanding of Mars,” said Richard Zurek, who is the senior scientist for the Mars program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The construction of an interplanetary spacecraft was a huge step for the UAE. They hired experienced engineers from previous NASA missions, mainly from the University of Colorado Boulder. This partnership has the express aim of imparting know-how to the team at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center with which the foreign engineers worked. “The truth is that we are a young country, and without partners and international cooperation, we would not be able to achieve what we have already achieved,” said Ahmad Belhoul, Minister of Higher Education and Chairman of the UAE Space Agency.

Surprisingly, the idea for the interplanetary project did not come from scientists, but from the government itself. And it set a non-negotiable deadline for its implementation by December 2, 2021, the country’s 50th anniversary. “Such a bold project should not only inspire young people in the region, but also initiate the UAE’s transition to a knowledge-based economy,” says Omran Sharaf, project manager for the EMM. And the mission is already having an effect: the universities are offering five new scientific courses of study, and the Emirati children’s enthusiasm for space is growing. “Even if Hope exploded on the launch pad, the mission would be a success in many ways,” says Al Amiri. But he doesn’t really want to imagine this scenario: “My heart stopped for a moment when I just said it.”

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