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Home / Tips and Tricks / NASA’s Perseverance, China’s Tianwen-1 and UAE’s Hope arrive on Mars this month

NASA’s Perseverance, China’s Tianwen-1 and UAE’s Hope arrive on Mars this month



On the way to Mars.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

July 2020 was a huge month for Mars. Taking advantage of its near position in orbit, three missions took off from Earth on a seven-month journey to the red planet. Now those spacecraft – NASA’s Perseverance rover, the Tianwen-1 from the Chinese space agency and the Hope of the United Arab Emirates – arrive at their destination. They are ready to reveal the secrets that our heavenly neighbor hides in its atmosphere and arid plains and can even reveal remnants of ancient life on the Earth’s surface.

While all three spacecraft will enter orbit around Mars this month, NASA’s persistence (or “Percy”) will take center stage. It will be the only mission to surface this month, with an expected arrival date of February 18. Perseverance builds on an impressive history of interplanetary exploration, with its sibling Curiosity emerging nine years on Mars breathtaking photos and a little puzzling data.

That doesn’t take away from Hope, or Al Amal, and Tianwen-1 in China. Both spacecraft are expected to perform maneuvers in Mars orbit or MOI on February 9 and February 10, respectively, within one day of each other. Hope will remain in orbit and analyze Mars’ atmosphere, but Tianwen-1 will try something that can only be achieved by two other countries: landing on the unfriendly surface of Mars. China is expected to release the lander and rover duo of Tianwen-1 sometime in May.

Here’s a summary of the journey to Mars and what to expect this month.

First place

Every 26 months, the orbits of Earth and Mars are arranged so that space agencies can take advantage of something known as a Hohmann transfer orbit.

“We do this kind of movement to use as little fuel as possible,” said James O’Donoghue, a planetary scientist with the Japanese space agency JAXA. told CNET last year. “It’s like passing a soccer ball to an attacker, you have to aim where they will be.”

In July 2020, everything was perfectly aligned, and the three missions were gone. Some quick facts:

The rhythm of the launches means that Hope will be the first to reach Mars in February. It is expected to perform its moment of inertia on February 9, from 75,000 miles per hour to just 11,200. At approximately 7:42 a.m. PT, the probe will arrive “on” Mars the length of the bus and will begin the transition to the science phase of the mission. The maneuver is completely autonomous, as communication isn’t as fast as it does here on Earth – the interplanetary phone call is delayed by more than 13 minutes, so Hope flies by itself based on a series of preset instructions.

The arrival of Tianwen-1 is a bit more mysterious. The Chinese space agency doesn’t typically reveal much information about its activities, even for a potentially historic mission like this one. According to Chinese news service CCTV, it will be the second vessel to enter orbit on February 10.

Three spacecraft, seven months

While most of the science will be conducted when the spacecraft reaches Mars, scientists and engineers have tested their spacecraft’s capabilities during the cruise phase of the mission. The journey itself is long – about 300 million miles (~ 480 million kilometers) covered – and every agency has the chance to improve the craft’s trajectory for a perfect arrival. What else has happened?

And last but not least

NASA’s Perseverance rover will land on Feb. 18. While NASA has a good track record of landing on the red planet for the past several decades, there are no guarantees – Mars is tough.

“Success is never assured,” Allan Chen, technical leader during the mission’s arrival, descent and landing stages, said at a NASA press conference Jan. 27. “That’s especially true when we’re trying to land the largest, toughest and most complicated rover we’ve ever built in the most dangerous place we’ve ever attempted to land.”

The expect space agency to have the best footage of the landing ever, with an array of cameras and a microphone ready to capture the entrance, descent and landing. It’s the first time we’ve been able to do that listen to the sounds of a Mars landing, providing a completely new sensory experience for avid Mars fans. Unfortunately, there is no way we can see life, as such, but NASA will be reporting the moment. We have a comprehensive guide to Mars landing day and what to expect.

How to watch NASA’s Perseverance land on Mars

If you’re looking for the Perseverance Rover landing on February 18th, we’ve got you covered and you can access the stream here. And if you’re interested in all the other major celestial events and rocket launches, we recommend syncing your calendar with CNET’s space calendar – you’ll never miss a launch again.


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