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Tianwen 1



Tianwen 1 (formerly Huoxing 1) is a Chinese Mars mission comprising a lander/rover and orbiter that launched on 23 July 2020 and reaches Mars in February 2021. The scientific objectives of the mission are to study martian topography and geology, characterize the soil and its water-ice content, determine the composition of the surface material, profile the martian ionosphere, climate, and environment, and constrain the gravity and magnetic fields and the interior structure.

Spacecraft and Subsystems

The orbiter bus is a squat hexagonal cylinder with two solar panel wings and a high-gain dish antenna mounted on the sides. Thrusters and propellant tanks are mounted on the bottom of the bus. Communication is through the high-gain and a very low frequency antenna The scientific payload includes one high- and one moderate-resolution imaging camera, a subsurface detection radar, a mineralogy spectrometer, a magnetometer, an ion and neutral particle analyzer, and an energetic particle analyzer.

The rover has a mass of about 240 kg. It has 6 wheels and a set of fold-out solar panels to provide power. A dish antenna is mounted on a mast at the back of the rover. Another mast at the front of the rover holds navigation and terrain cameras, and also a multispectral science camera. A magnetometer is also mounted on the mast. A cylindrical Mars climate detector containing atmospheric sensors and a surface component detector (laser-induced breakdown spectrometer) protrude from the top deck on the front of the rover. Subsurface detection radar components are mounted on the front face of the rover. The lander is primarily a landing platform for the rover and is not equipped for scientific studies.

Mission Profile

Tianwen 1 launched from Wenchang launch complex on a Long March 5 Y-4 booster on 23 July 2020 at 04:41 UT. The mission made a 7 month trip to Mars, arriving and going into orbit on 10 February 2021. Orbit was achieved at about 12:18 UT Earth Received Time (Time delay was 10 min., 40 sec.) or 20:18 Beijing Time after a 14-15 minute braking thruster firing. The initial orbit has an inclination of 10 degrees and an altitude of 400 x 180,000 km with a period of 10 days. The orbiter will use high-resolution cameras to search for the nominal landing site for the lander and rover. They will separate from the orbiter and make a landing somewhere in the Utopia Planitia region, currently scheduled for May 2021. The orbiter will then go into a 265 x 12,000 km altitude polar orbit, from which it will make scientific measurements and act as a relay for the rover communications with Earth. The rover is scheduled to operate on the surface for about 3 months.

The name Tianwen means "Questions to Heaven" the name of a poem by Qu Yuan. Huoxing is based on the Chinese word for "Mars".

Image credit: CNSA

Alternate Names

  • Huoxing 1
  • Huoxing1
  • China Mars 2020
  • HX-1
  • 45935

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 2020-07-23
Launch Vehicle: Long March 5
Launch Site: Wenchang, Peoples Republic of China

Funding Agency

  • China National Space Administration (Peoples Republic of China)


  • Planetary Science

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams



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