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Le lancement de la sonde Tianwen, le 23 juillet 2020.

Chinese “Tianwen-1” probe successfully placed in orbit around Mars

On Tuesday, the United Arab Emirates also succeeded in placing a probe in Martian orbit, a first for an Arab country, just as the Soviet Union, the United States, India and the United States had done in the past. ‘Europe.

“The braking (of the probe) was successful” and “its launching into Martian orbit is a success,” said the Chinese space agency (CNSA) on Wednesday in a statement.

“Tianwen-1” was launched on July 23 from the tropical island of Hainan, in southern China, during a window of fire to reduce the distance of the Earth-Mars journey.

The United Arab Emirates and the United States had also taken advantage of this period to launch their own probes towards the red planet, a few days apart.

The Emirati, named “Al-Amal” (“Hope” in French or “Hope” in English) placed Tuesday in Martian orbit. As for “Perseverance”, the remote-controlled robot of the American space agency (Nasa), it is due to land on Mars next week.

Since its launch, the Chinese probe has “traveled a distance of about 475 million kilometers and is about 192 million kilometers from Earth,” said CNSA.

The mission is named “Tianwen-1” (“Questions to heaven-1”) in homage to a poem from ancient China that deals with astronomy.

The probe took its first photo of Mars last week: a black-and-white snapshot that showed canyons, a crater and a plain of the Red Planet.

“Tianwen-1” is in fact made up of three elements: an orbiter (which will remain to revolve around the star), a lander (which should land on Mars) and a remote-controlled robot.

Weighing more than 200 kilos, the latter will have to carry out analyzes of the soil, the atmosphere, take photos or even contribute to the mapping of the red planet.

“The landing on Mars is scheduled between May and June 2021,” said the CNSA.

Unlike the placement in orbit on Wednesday, the following stages of the mission “will be much more demanding,” said Chen Lan, analyst at GoTaikonauts.com, specializing in the Chinese space program.

“The procedures and operations are more complex, because the atmosphere and the surface of Mars are still very little known. Especially for the Chinese,” he said.

China had previously tried to ship a probe to Mars in 2011 during a joint mission with Russia. But the attempt had collapsed and Beijing then decided to continue the adventure alone.

Ambitious, the Chinese hope to do in this first independent attempt all that the Americans have achieved in several Martian missions since the 1960s.

That is to say, place a probe in orbit, place a lander, then bring out a remote-controlled robot. Carrying out these three operations during an inaugural mission to Mars would be a world first.

China is investing billions of euros in its space program to catch up with Europeans, Russians and Americans.

The Asian giant sent its first astronaut into space in 2003.

China struck a blow in early 2019 by landing a machine on the far side of the Moon, a world first.

It also launches countless satellites, on its own behalf or that of other countries. And has just completed in 2020 the constellation of its navigation system Beidou, rival of the American GPS.

Finally, the Chinese plan to assemble a large space station, a priori by 2022, and send men to the Moon by 2030.

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