by Douglas MessierManaging Editor
A Long March 5 booster roared off the launch pad from Wenchang on Thursday morning, sending an orbiter, lander and rover to Mars in China’s most ambitious robotic space mission to date.
Chinese media are reporting a successful launch of the Tianwen-1 mission, which is the nation’s first independent attempt to explore the Red Planet.
Tianwen-1’s orbiter, which weighs in at 3,175 kg (7,000 lb), will study the Red Planet with six instruments, including:
high-resolution camera (HRC) with a 2-meter resolutionmedium resolution camera with an 100-meter resolutionmagnetometermineral spectrometersubsurface radarion and neutral particle analyzer.
The solar powered rover, which measures 2 by 1.65 m (6.6 x 5.4 ft) and weighs 240 kg (529 lb), will explore the Utopia Planitia region. The rover’s six instruments include:
ground-penetrating radar capable of imaging 100 meters below the surfacemulti-spectrum cameranavigation and topography camerasurface compound detectormagnetic field detectormeteorological measurement instrument.
The rover will be flown aboard a lander that will use retrorockets, a parachute and an airbag to land on the Martian surface.
Tianwen-1 is the first Mars mission that China has attempted on its own. The Chinese Yinghuo-1 sub-satellite was launched aboard Russia’s Phobos-Grunt mission in November 2011. However, the ambitious ...