China officially unveiled the name and logo of the country’s first Mars exploration mission on April 24, China’s Space Day.
All of China’s planetary exploration missions in the future will be named the Tianwen series, with the first Mars exploration mission being Tianwen-1.
The name comes from the long poem “Tianwen”, meaning Questions to Heaven, written by Qu Yuan (about 340-278 BC), one of the greatest poets of ancient China. It signifies the Chinese nation’s perseverance in pursuing truth and science and exploring nature and the universe. It also signals the endless pursuit of science and innovation.
Since China launched a global campaign to solicit names and logos of the first Mars exploration task on August 2016, 35,912 names and 7,439 logos have been submitted. After expert review and online voting, the name “Tianwen” ranked first with about 317,000 votes.
The logo of the mission features the solar system and the eight planets that travel around the Sun, signifying the colorful universe and a rich variety of scientific discoveries. The shape of the logo resembles the letter C, standing for China, international cooperation and the capacity of space exploration. It carries China’s spirit of open cooperation in aerospace development.
Experts introduced that China’s planetary exploration missions will all adopt the “C”-shaped logo and the name “Tianwen,” with the English name of the planet to be explored placed under the logo.
As a planet in the solar system, the Mars has a minimum distance of more than 50 million kilometers from the Earth, and the farthest apart they can be is about 400 million kilometers. Out of curiosity in the outer space and extraterrestrial life, as well as the similarities between Mars and the Earth in such areas as the environment, human beings have always been interested in exploring Mars.
Experts say that studying Mars can bring a lot of inspiration to mankind. Mars is the most similar planet in the solar system to the Earth regarding environment. It has not only an atmosphere, but also suitable temperatures, as well as a similar rotation period to that of the Earth. Therefore, studying the similarities and differences between the two planets and taking them as references for one another is a basic research of great value.
An article published on foreign media claimed that scientists found evidence of the existence of liquid water under the south polar ice cap of Mars. This discovery once again ignited people’s enthusiasm for exploring the Red Planet.
Scientists believe that studying the long-term evolution of Mars’ magnetic field, the evolution of Mars’ atmosphere and climate, the Martian geomorphology, and regionalized research of the planet is of great scientific significance.
Experts introduced that subject to movement of the Earth and Mars and based on the capabilities of the existing carrier rockets, the opportunity to launch a Mars probe at a relatively lower cost comes every 26 months. Mars exploration can be called a world’s frontier scientific and technological innovation activity.
China plans to launch the first Mars probe in 2020, aiming to complete orbiting, landing and roving, carry out global and comprehensive exploration of Mars, and conduct detailed survey of key areas on the surface of the Mars.
China’s first Mars exploration mission is a complicated process that requires a wide range of technologies and plentiful key links, thus posing huge challenges.
For example, compared with the 380,000 kilometers between the Earth and the moon, the Earth-Mars distance is much farther, placing a huge test for the aircraft’s communication system for tracking, telemetry and command.
It takes the probe about 7 months to fly to Mars, but landing on the planet takes only about seven minutes. Given the Mars’ gravity, which is only 1/3 that of the Earth, safe landing will be a difficult and challenging task.
China’s first Mars exploration mission is a milestone project the marks the entry to the deep space of country’s aerospace development, representing the next direction of the country in deep space exploration.
The new round of innovation led by the Mars exploration mission is of great significance to the realization of a new leap in the field of aerospace technology and in building China into a space power from a major player in space.
This photo shows the logo of China’s first Mars exploration mission. Photo courtesy of the China National Space Administration (CNSA).