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China’s Tienwen-1 enters Mars orbit

The new colonial movement: China’s Tienwen-1, carrying an as-yet-unnamed lander/rover, successfully inserted itself into orbit around Mars early today.

With a successful Mars Orbit Insertion, the craft has entered a highly eccentric, equatorial capture orbit of the planet, and controllers will now spend two months undertaking initial activations and checkouts in Martian orbit for the primary science mission while altering the craft’s orbit from equatorial to polar.

In April 2021, the lander, with the rover inside, will detach from the orbiter and prepare for Entry, Descent, and Landing. Prior to launch, 23 April 2021 was given as the target landing date.

The landing location is within Utopia Planitia and will — if the orbit insertion burn is completed successfully — utilize a combination of aerobraking, parachute descent, retrorocket firing, and airbag deployments to achieve a soft touchdown on the Martian surface. After landing, the rover will be deployed — ideally on the same day — to begin a planned 90 Sol (Martian day) mission to categorize the local environment.

The suspected landing site in Utopia Planitia is at about 25 degrees north latitude. Though it is in the northern lowland plains, this latitude places it south of the latitudes (greater than 30) that scientists now believe ample ice likely exists underground but accessible. The lander/rover carries radar equipment capable of detecting evidence of underground ice, and will look nonetheless. If it finds any, this will be a significant discovery.

Two down, one to go. Next week, on February 18th, the American rover Perseverance will attempt its landing in Jezero crater.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

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