China’s Tianwen-1 Mars probe, which exploded into space in July, is now more than 15 million kilometers (9 million miles) from Earth en route to the red planet, the National Space Administration said Saturday.
The administration said Tianwen-1 was in stable condition, having completed its first mid-path orbital correction earlier last month. It will be approximately 195 million kilometers (118 million miles) from Earth when it arrives on Mars around February, having traveled a total of 470 million kilometers (292 million miles) to get there.
The administration, however, has yet to release information on a mysterious reusable experimental spacecraft that returned to Earth a week ago after a two-day flight.
The spacecraft consists of an orbiter, lander and rover and marks China’s most ambitious Mars mission as it seeks to join the United States in successfully landing a spacecraft on the planet. It was launched into space aboard a Long March-5 on July 23 during a month in which the United Arab Emirates and the United States also took advantage of a narrow distance between planets to launch similar missions.
China said the reusable spacecraft returned to its designated landing site last Sunday, calling the flight a breakthrough that will ultimately provide convenient, low-cost round-trip space transportation. No other details have been released on the mission or configuration of the spacecraft.
This is also seen as an attempt to bring China to the forefront of space flight. The United States has been operating the secret X-37B space plane for years, which remains in orbit for months.
China’s military-backed space program has developed rapidly since becoming the third country after Russia and the United States to put a man into space in 2003. Last year, China’s Chang’e-4 became the first spacecraft from any country to land on the far side of the moon.
China’s first reusable spacecraft lands after 2 days of flight
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China claims the Mars probe is stable; no word on reusable spacecraft (2020, September 12)
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