Big antenna in assist of the Chinese language Tianwen-1 mission to Mars
A giant antenna built in northern China is now ready to support the Tianwen-1 mission to Mars and future space efforts.
With China’s first interplanetary mission, Tianwen-1, shortly before Mars, the newly built antenna with a diameter of 70 meters was tested in the city of Tianjin and is ready to receive data from the spacecraft.
Tianwen-1 will enter Mars orbit on Wednesday (February 10) and begin its scientific and imaging observations shortly thereafter. Bringing this valuable information back to Earth from up to 250 million miles below, however, presents its own challenges.
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“The construction of the antenna is expected to receive weak scientific exploration data from Mars, which is 400 million kilometers from Earth,” Li Chunlai, deputy chief designer of China’s first Mars exploration project, told Chinese media.
Construction of the facility began in October 2018 and the huge 2,700-ton shell was lifted to a height of 72 m last April.
The shell consists of 1,328 high-precision panels and has an area of 4,560 square meters or around nine basketball courts. It was officially handed over to the National Astronomical Observatory of China (NAOC), the operator of the court, on February 3.
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(Image credit: CNSA)
“With the distance [getting farther], the [signal’s] Energy is attenuated and denser, and that means the less energy we get per unit area. So we need [an antenna] with a large area to collect enough energy, “added Li
The movable antenna can be rotated and steered to track Mars as its position changes in the sky. The new facility in Tianjin connects a number of smaller diameter dishes across the country to support space activities.
The five-ton spacecraft Tianwen-1 consists of both an orbiter and a rover. The pair are expected to enter Mars orbit on Wednesday, February 10, around 7 a.m. EST (1200 GMT, 8 p.m. Beijing time).
(Photo credit: CCTV / China National Space Administration)
After entering orbit, Tianwen-1 will prepare for a later attempt by the mission’s rover to land, which is expected to occur in May.
The roughly 530-lb. (240 kilograms) solar powered rover is said to land in a region called Utopia Planitia and explore it, a huge impact basin.
The Tianwen-1 orbiter maps the landing area in preparation for landing. On Friday (February 5), the spacecraft’s high-resolution camera delivered a breathtaking image of Mars from a distance of 2.2 million km.
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