The new Chinese mission includes an orbiter, a catcher and a rover. While other countries are taking a step-by-step approach when visiting Mars – first in orbit, then in landing, and then in a rover – China emphasizes that it will try to exploit all these components for the first time at once.
According to the orbit, four scientists involved in the mission will study Mars and its atmosphere for about one Martian year, or 687 days on Earth. In addition to two cameras, the spacecraft carries an underground radar, a detector to study the Martian magnetic field and three other scientific instruments.
The rover will attempt to land in the Utopia Plantation region in mid-northern Martian latitudes. NASA̵
If it manages a dangerous Martian landing, the rover will use a combination of ground-penetrating radar cameras and other tools to better understand the spread of underground ice that future human colonists on Mars could use to sustain themselves. China’s mission is to last about 90 Martian days.
A fourth mission, the joint Russian-European Roselind Franklin, was scheduled to launch this summer. But the technical hurdles exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic could not be overcome in time. It is now scheduled to launch in 2022.
What other spacecraft are currently studying Mars?
It’s getting a little crowded around the red planet.
Six orbits are currently studying the planet from space. Three were sent by NASA: Mars Odyssey, launched in 2001; Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, 2005; and MAVEN, who left Earth in 2013.
Europe has two spaceships in orbit. Its Mars Express orbiter was launched in 2003, and the ExceMars Trace Gas Orbiter, which is shared with Russia’s space program, was canceled in 2016.