Here’s everything you need to know about China’s Mars rover.
China’s first interplanetary expedition, Tianwen-1, has successfully made into the orbit of the red planet on February 10. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced that the rover will land into the planet in May or June. The spacecraft is a combination of both an orbiter and a rover and has been circling Mars for quite some time now. Here’s everything you need to know about China’s Mars rover.
Specifications of Tianwen-1
- The rover is 1.85 meters tall
- It has a mass of about 240 kg
- It has six wheels
- Top speed is 200 meters per hours
- Its design lifetime is 90 Sols, or 92.5 Earth days.
- The rover is solar-powered
- It has four solar panels. These are in the shape of foldable butterfly wings.
On comparing this rover with that of NASA’s earlier Spirit as well as Opportunity rovers, it is evident that Tianwen-1 is larger than them. However, it is very small when compared to the radioisotope-powered Perseverance as the latter has a mass of about 1025 kg.
China has till date operated rovers on the moon but now the story is altogether different considering the fact that now the challenges faced are more in terms of both distance and communication. Thus, the demand for an autonomous vehicle is at an all-time high.
This China’s rover was tested for speed at a site built by the China Academy of Space Technology. Also, it carries six payloads for science. This would cater to study the topography, geology, soil structure, minerals and rock types and atmosphere in the area.
The payloads are –
- NaTeCam: A pair navigation and terrain cameras are mounted on the mast of the rover. The cameras are deployed to provide 3D panoramic imaging and also assist in the navigation. All of this further makes it easy to study Mars topography and geology.
- MSCam: It stands for “Multispectral Camera”. The main purpose of installing this camera is to provide information on surface materials and also their distribution across nine spectral bands. This is installed on the mast between the NaTeCams.
- MarSCoDe: It stands for Mars Surface Composition Detector. This unit employs a laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) spectrometer. Using this, it is possible to analyse the composition of rocks in Mars.
- RoPeR: This will help in studying the soil and potential water ice below the surface. For this, two frequency channels are deployed to investigate the subsurface layers to 100m with 1m vertical resolution respectively.
- RoMAG: The purpose of this is to mast-mounted magnetometer is to measure the magnetic field.
- MCS: This stands for Mars Climate Station. Evidently, the aim of this is to collect data on temperature, pressure, wind speed and direction, etc. It makes use of sensors for this.
Landing: Where and how?
China claims that it knows in detail about where and how the rover will land.
The primary landing area is in Utopia Planitia. A lot of engineering parameters have been considered for finalising this place. Some of the parameters are –
- Smooth surface that is a plus point from the topography and geology point of view.
- Low altitude
- Low altitude, etc.
It is highly likely that Utopia Planitia might have been extensively resurfaced by mud flows. Hence, the process to investigate the potential past subsurface habitability would be lot more interesting.
The orbiter has now entered the orbit and is making rounds over the target area. It is collecting images of the same to be able to assess the terrain. Also, there aren’t any obstacles as such that’d pose a problem while navigating through.
Landing on Mars is a huge challenge in itself. One of the major areas of concern is that of a thin atmosphere. Because of this, the spacecraft heats up intensely.
As far as landing is concerned, Tianwen-1will separate from the orbiter. It will then enter the atmosphere at a rate of four kilometers per second. To address the issue of intense heat, the rover will be protected by an aero shell. This is in the shape of a spherical cone. Also, to slow down the rover during descent, a disk-gap-band parachute would be deployed. During the final descent, a lot of attention has to be paid to slow down the rover. Here, retro propulsion would come in handy. Thrust is yet another critical issue that grabs eyeballs. In this case, most of it will be provided by a 7,500-Newton variable thrust engine.
Yet another challenge is when the rover will have to be descended from the platform onto the surface. This is a strenuous task, without a doubt and make take more than a week.