Chinese Mars probe team wins IAF space award for Tianwen-1 mission

The Tianwen-1 probe recently discovered evidence to support the theory that Mars once had a vast ancient ocean. / VCG

The Tianwen-1 probe recently discovered evidence to support the theory that Mars once had a vast ancient ocean. / VCG

China’s Mars probe Tianwen-1 team won this year’s International Astronautical Federation (IAF) World Space Award. This is the second time that China has received this award after scientists from the Chang’e-4 moon landing team won it in 2020.

The Mars probe was launched in July 2020, and the rover Zhurong, named after the god of fire in Chinese mythology, landed on the planet in May 2021. The mission was completed three months later.

1,040 gigabytes of raw data has been sent back to Earth, some of which supports the hypothesis that an ancient ocean once existed on Utopia Planitia, the vast plain of Mars that Zhurong is exploring.

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Scientists analyzing the data discovered the presence of wet minerals in the “duricrust,” a hard mineral layer that usually forms due to the evaporation of groundwater.

The rover entered the rehabilitation phase in May 2022 due to cold weather, and is expected to resume work in December 2022.

The IAF . International Space Award The ITU’s most prestigious award, it honors people who have made an exceptional impact in the advancement of space exploration.

On March 28, 2021, the Chang’e 5 lunar probe and parachute are on display at the National Museum in Beijing. (Image via VCG)

On March 28, 2021, the Chang’e 5 lunar probe and parachute are on display at the National Museum in Beijing. (Image via VCG)

In a panel discussion held during the International Astronautical Congress, Wang Qiong of the Center for Lunar Exploration and Aerospace Engineering presented China’s plans for the next ten years.

The fourth phase of China’s lunar exploration program consists of three lunar exploration missions, called Chang’e 6, 7 and 8. Step by step, the missions will retrieve samples from the south pole on the far side of the moon, then test the resources and environment before examining the possibility of how lunar resources can be used. . There are also plans for a lunar research station and the Chang’e 8 mission is scheduled to launch around 2030.

The International Lunar Research Station’s reconnaissance is scheduled to end around 2025, and construction is supposed to begin in 2030 with a goal to be operational by 2035.

Planetary exploration in China currently consists of four missions, Tianwen 1, 2, 3 and 4. Since Tianwen-1 has achieved and landed an orbit around Mars, Tianwen-2 is expected to bring samples from the Martian asteroid while Tianwen-3 can return with a sample Collected from the surface of the planet. Tianwen-4 is set to explore the Jupiter system around Jupiter.

More international cooperation is expected

Wang also demonstrated China’s willingness to continue working with scientists from all over the world. The Chang’e mission will bring 6 facilities from the European Space Agency, Italy, France and Pakistan while it will provide the United Arab Emirates with a vehicle with a maximum capacity of 25 kilograms of material back to Earth. Cooperation for further explorations is welcomed.