There are 3 new arrivals at Mars this week – the UAE Hope, China’s Tianwen-1, and NASA’s Perseverance.

Tianwen-1 arrived at Mars on Wednesday Feb. 10 and fired its engines on Feb. 15th to to enter a polar orbit around the planet. China has now received and put together a series of images taken during this approach and created two remarkable scenes. The first part of the video was taken by Tianwen-1’s small engineering survey sub-system camera for monitoring a solar array, and shows Mars entering into frame followed by an good view of the edge of Mars’ atmosphere, or “atmospheric limb.”

Craters are also visible on the planet’s surface, while the solar panel appears to oscillate with the spacecraft firing its main engines to decelerate.  A second scene is from the point of view of a monitoring camera for Tianwen-1’s tracking antenna, providing similarly amazing footage.

Tianwen-1, which roughly translates as “Questioning the Heavens,” launched on July 23, 2020 and is China’s first independent interplanetary mission. It arrived in orbit around Mars after a 202-day, 295-million-mile (475 million kilometers) journey through deep space.

Tianwen is taken from a poem written by Chinese legend Qu Yuan (around 340-278 BCE).

A labeled version of the image indicates the location of notable features on display, namely Acidalia Planitia (1), Chryse Planitia (2), Meridiani Planum (3), Schiaparelli Crater (4) and Valles Marineris (5).

The mission is a combination orbiter and lander. China is currently holding a 40-day public vote to select the name for its Mars rover. The three most popular names will be sent to a committee for the final choice.

China’s Tianwan-1 Mars rover is pictured at the “Mars yard,” a simulated Red Planet testing ground at the China Academy of Space Technology in Beijing, China.
(Image: © CCTV)

The candidate names are:

  • Zhurong: a god of fire
  • Hongyi: Perseverance ( similar to NASA’s new rover)
  • Qilin: a Chinese unicorn
  • Chitu: red rabbit
  • Qiusuo: to explore, referencing an ancient poem
  • Zhuimeng: to pursue a dream
  • Nezha: a mythological hero
  • Fenghuolun: Nezha’s weapons
  • Tianxing: referring to the motion of celestial bodies
  • Xinghuo: spark

The voting continues until February 28, and is being carried out by Chinese net-giant Baidu. To participate, it is necessary to use the company’s app.

Possible landing site, as imaged by NASA

The landing attempt for the rover is not expected until May or June, giving the orbiter time to image and map out the intended landing site in a region known as Utopia Planitia. The scientific objectives of the mission relate to the geology of Mars, the current and past presence of water, the internal structure of the planet, the identification of minerals and different types of rocks on the surface.

The 3 missions were launched during a narrow window in July 2020 when Earth and Mars are relatively close. If Tianwen-1 is successful, China would become the second country to place a rover on Mars.

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