UPDATE 1 – Unequipped Chinese spacecraft successfully enters Mars orbit

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UPDATE 1 - Unequipped Chinese spacecraft successfully enters Mars orbit

(Add details, background; change attribution to space agency)

BEIJING, Feb.10 (Reuters) – An unequipped Chinese spacecraft on Wednesday successfully entered orbit around Mars after a 6-1 / 2 month journey from Earth, the Chinese space agency said, during the first independent mission of the country on the red planet.

The robotic probe initiated and completed a 15-minute burn of its thrusters, China’s National Space Administration said in a statement, slowing the spacecraft to a speed at which it could be captured by the gravity pull of Mars. .

In about three months, the Tianwen-1 will attempt to send a landing capsule carrying a 240 kilogram rover on a rapid seven-minute descent over a massive plain in the northern hemisphere of Mars known as Utopia Planitia. .

If the landing is successful, the solar-powered rover will explore the Martian surface for 90 days, studying its soil and looking for signs of ancient life, including any groundwater and ice using radar penetrating the ground. .

Tianwen-1, or “Questions to Heaven,” the name of a Chinese poem written two millennia ago, is China’s first independent mission to the planet after a probe co-launched with Russia failed. failed to leave Earth orbit in 2011.

The probe is one of three to reach Mars this month. The United Arab Emirates-launched Hope spacecraft successfully entered planet orbit on Tuesday. Hope will not make a landing but will orbit Mars to collect data on its weather and atmosphere. America’s most ambitious mission to Mars, the one-ton Perserverance probe is scheduled to arrive on February 18. She will immediately attempt a landing in a rocky depression with sheer cliffs called Jezero Crater.

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