After successfully orbiting, landing and circling Mars on its first attempt, China is eyeing another milestone – bringing in rocks, and soil samples from the Red Planet. The sample return mission could take place as early as 2031, about two years before NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) do so together.
In a presentation at a Nanjing University seminar, Tianwen-1 Mars orbiter and rover mission chief designer Sun Zhezhou indicated that Beijing is planning a two-launch mission that could lift off in 2028 and reach ancient alien worlds by 2031. Can come back with samples.
SpaceNews reported that the multi-launch mission may have a simpler architecture than the joint NASA-ESA project, with a single Mars landing and no rover sampling different sites.
Dubbed Tianwen-3, the mission will include a lander and ascent vehicle, and an orbiter and return module. Both combinations will be launched separately on Long March 5 and Long March 3B rockets respectively. The mission will draw inspiration from two successful Chinese ventures.
Read also | Mars selfie captured Chinese probe orbiting the Red Planet
While entry, landing and landing on Mars will be developed on the basis of the Tianwen-1 mission, regolith sampling and collection will be carried out from the 2020 Chang’e-5 lunar sample return mission. After the 2028 liftoff, the landing on Mars will take place a year later in 2029.
The Tianwen-1 orbiter is hovering around Mars. (Photo: CNSA)
As per reports, the climbing vehicle will have two stages and will have to be launched at 4.5 kilometers per second using solid or liquid propulsion, where it will dock with the orbiter already orbiting Mars. The spacecraft will then leave Mars in late October 2030.
Sun said in its presentation that the Tianwen-1 orbiter, already hovering around Mars, will conduct an aerobraking test around the Red Planet later this year as part of a sample return mission.
Read also | How China dominated the space race in 2021
Launched in July 2020 from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan Province, the Tianwen-1 probe, named after an ancient Chinese poem, traveled a total of 475 million kilometres. After performing several trajectory maneuvers, the spacecraft entered Martian orbit on February 10, 2021.
While Tianwen-1 continued to orbit, the Chinese rover Zurong traveled to Martian Earth, becoming the sixth rover on the planet after five from NASA. The Chinese rover is operating in an impact crater called Utopia Planitia – chosen mainly because it is flat and a relatively safe place to land.
With China successfully entering Mars, Beijing plans to launch a sample-return mission to the asteroid Kamo’Oleva in 2024.