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Mars probe makes first mid-course adjustment

Pub Date:2020-08-03 08:34 Source:China Daily

Mars probe makes first mid-course correction maneuverd. [Photo/Xinhua]

China's Tianwen 1 Mars probe carried out its first mid-course correction on Sunday morning, according to the China National Space Administration.

The spacecraft's main orbital-control engine was activated at 7 am for 20 seconds to fine-tune the spacecraft's trajectory, the administration said in a statement on Sunday.

The operation was guided by workers at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

When the correction was made, Tianwen 1 had been in space for more than 9 days and 18 hours on course for the Red Planet and has already traveled about 3 million kilometers, the statement said, adding that the probe was in good condition.

During the seven-month journey, the spacecraft will make two more course corrections and a deep-space maneuver as it makes its way to the planet.

Zhu Qinghua, a senior Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology designer in the Tianwen 1 program, said correction maneuvers are necessary during the probe's unpropelled journey because minor deviations will accumulate to a level that would put the spacecraft off course.

That's why the probe has a main orbital-control engine and dozens of low-thrust motors for correction maneuvers, he said.

Tianwen 1, China's first independent Mars mission, was launched on July 23 at Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province. That launch simultaneously opened China's planetary exploration program.

If everything goes according to schedule, the 5-metric-ton spacecraft, consisting of an orbiter and a landing capsule, will travel more than 400 million kilometers before getting caught in Mars' gravitational field. The mission's main goal is for the rover to make a soft landing on Martian soil to make scientific surveys.

The spacecraft has begun to conduct scientific operations with the Mars Energetic Particle Analyzer, mounted on the orbiter, which has already transmitted data back to ground control.

It is the first of the 13 scientific devices on the probe to begin operations and will be the longest-working device during the journey toward Mars' gravitational field.

On July 27, Tianwen 1 sent a photo back to the ground control of Earth and the moon that was taken by its optical navigation sensor when the craft was about 1.2 million kilometers from Earth. That photo is the first image from the spacecraft that has been made public.


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