Tianwen-1, China's Mars probe, is doing quite well on its journey to the Red Planet is currently preparing for its second trajectory correction maneuver, China National Space Administration (CNSA) officials have announced.
The spacecraft, which carries a rover, lander, and an orbiter, was around 5.10 million miles away from Earth as of August 19. It is operating normally, CNSA reported.
On that very day, Tianwen-1's mission engineers began testing instruments on the orbiter, including its medium- and high-resolution remote-sensing cameras, the mineralogy spectrometer, and the Mars magnetometer.
"So far everything is good," said Wang Chuang, the mission's chief designer. "At present, we are following its 'health condition' during the flight, and will conduct regular checkups on it."
Tianwen-1's medium- and high-resolution remote-sensing cameras will conduct studies of the Red Planet's morphology and geological structure, and map it as well. The Mars mineralogy spectrometer will make an analysis of the minerals found on the planet while the Mars magnetometer will observe the planet's magnetic environment. The rover alone carries six science payloads, with the orbiter carrying another seven.
Tianwen-1 was 5.76 million miles from Earth, with a total flight distance of 53.7 million miles, according to a further update from CNSA on August 23. The spacecraft will perform its second maneuver on trajectory correction in September. Tianwen-1 will undertake four such operations in total before they reach Mars.
The first such maneuver for trajectory correction was conducted on Aug. 1, with Tianwen-1 running its main engine for 20 seconds. The probe also imaged the moon and Earth.
Tianwen-1 launched from Wenchang on July 23 on a Long March 5 rocket. In February, it will arrive on Mars and enter orbit. The attempt to land rover will occur around April, aiming at a southern portion of the Utopia Planitia area.
In addition to China, the UAE and NASA also have missions to Mars. The UAE sent its Hope orbiter out into space, while on July 30 NASA launched the Perseverance rover. Perseverance holds the Ingenuity helicopter on its belly and is to become the first aircraft to travel across another planet's atmosphere.
On the very first attempt, Tianwen-1 will orbit, land, and release a rover, and coordinate observations with an orbiter. No planetary missions were ever carried out in this manner. In February 2021, it will reach Mars, at the same time as NASA's Perseverance rover and the Hope orbiter of the United Arab Emirates.