Credit: CGTN

As NASA prepares to launch their Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter, China is prepared to launch their own mission. The Tianwen-1 will be a Chinese mission to Mars composed of an orbiter, lander and rover. The launch vehicle will be the Long March 5 which was developed by China and should launch on 23 July 2020 from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Hainan, China. The Tianwen should arrive by February 2021 and officials have planned to land the rover on the planet by April. The landing site they have picked is the Utopia Planitia and the rover will search for signs of life in the past and study the environment. It will also take soil samples to look for atoms or molecules which are biosignatures. The mission heavily mirrors the American mission save the orbiter and helicopter. The name Tianwen means Heavenly Questions and it comes from an ancient poem written by Chinese poet Qu Yuan over 2,000 years ago. Below you’ll find a breakdown of what the orbiter and rover will use.


Medium Resolution Camera (MRC) and High Resolution Camera (HRC) – planet photography

Mars Magnetometer (MM) – examines the magnetosphere of Mars

Mars Mineral Spectrometer (MMS) – used to analyze the soil for biosignatures

Orbiter Subsurface Radar (OSR) – a radar for scanning the geography of Mars

Mars Ion and Neutral Particle Analyzer (MINPA) – analyzes the particles present in the Martian atmosphere


Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR) – can map the ground down to 100 meters

Mars Surface Magnetic Field Detector (MSMFD) – used to measure the magnetosphere from the surface

Mars Meteorological Measurement Instrument (MMMI) – used to observe Martian weather patterns

Mars Surface Compound Detector (MSCD) – probably used as a spectrometer to search for biosignatures

Multi-Spectrum Camera (MSC) – probably used to observe the terrain in visible light, infrared or ultraviolet

Navigation and Topography Camera (NTC) – probably used to observe the terrain around the rover


Xinhua Net: http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-04/24/c_139004153.htm

Spaceflight Now: https://spaceflightnow.com/launch-schedule/

IEEE Spectrum: https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/aerospace/robotic-exploration/china-says-its-mars-landing-technology-is-ready-for-2020

Space News: https://spacenews.com/successful-long-march-5-launch-opens-way-for-chinas-major-space-plans/

China’s Mars mission named Tianwen-1, appears on track for July launch

DW: https://amp.dw.com/en/the-facts-on-tianwen-1-mars-orbiter-and-rover/a-54014414

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