During recent years, the China became one of the most important players in space exploration. This was confirmed recently with the prestigious international award that the Mars mission Tianwen 1 obtained.
The Tianwen 1 mission was launched on July 23, 2020. For the very first time in history, a space mission has simultaneously transported an orbiter, a lander, and a rover. This enabled the mission to receive the annual Space Achievement Award awarded by the International Astronautical Federation. The prize was awarded on September 18 during the 73th IAC or International Astronautical Congress in Paris.
Tianwen 1 entered Mars orbit in February 2021. The rover Zhurong then landed on the plain Utopia Planitia in May of the same year.
The Tianwen Mission 1
Jilian Wang, vice president of the CAST or China Academy of Space Technology who developed the spacecraft, presented the mission during the event. He also talked about some of the major scientific achievements made so far. This includes a global map of Mars and the collecting data proving the existence of an ancient Martian ocean.
Tianwen 1 is currently continuing its extended science missions in Mars orbit. On the surface, the Zhurong rover is currently in hibernation mode while waiting for the end of winter in the northern hemisphere of March. It is expected to wake up next December or January when more sunlight hits the planet.
The future of China’s Mars exploration
After this successful mission, China intends to continue its momentum with a mission that has as goal to collect Martian samples and bring them back to Earth. This mission will be called Tianwen 3 and will require two launches of the rocket Long March 5 in 2028.
note that Tianwen 2 will consist of collecting samples from an asteroid and sending them to Earth. It will be launched in 2025.
In any case, this award proves that China is progressing very rapidly in the space exploration sector. Last year, the prize was awarded to the team ofHayabusa2, the Japanese mission that brought asteroid samples back to Earth. In 2020, China had already obtained the award thanks to the landing of the mission Chang’e 4 on the far side of the Moon.