China’s Tianwen-1 Spacecraft is Second to Orbit Mars


China’s Tianwen-1 Mission Successfully Begins Mars Orbit

by Alex Fox/

China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft successfully initiated its orbit around Mars, reports Zhao Lei for state-run media outlet China Daily. Tianwen-1 entered Mars orbit February 10 just before 8:00 p.m. Beijing time, reports Smriti Mallapaty for Nature.

The orbiter is carrying a lander and a rover that will attempt to touch down on the planet’s surface in roughly three months with the goal of studying Martian geology, soil and searching for signs of water, according to Nature. This achievement marks the first time China has traveled to another planet and its successful completion is a key step on the way to China’s ultimate goal of landing on the Red Planet for the first time.

Tianwen-1, or “Questions to Heaven,” is the second of three major missions to Mars set to reach their far-flung destination this month, reports Jonathan Amos of BBC News. The United Arab Emirates’ Hope space probe was the first to arrive, entering its uniquely distant orbit around Mars Tuesday. Meanwhile, the United States’ Perseverance mission is expected to arrive on February 18. The three missions, which launched last July, are taking advantage of a particularly close pass between Earth and its neighbor in the solar system. (For full coverage, check Smithsonian’s Exploring Mars page.)


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  1. The translation of “Tianwen”-1 into English as “Questions to Heaven”-1 will literally work ok.

    “tian/天” in Chinese has multilevel meanings. The primary meaning is the part above the earth, ie., sky, heaven, or even God, such as “天知道/tianzhidao”(God knows) or “我的天/wodetian”(my God). The 2nd levvel is space. The 3rd level is outer space, universe or cosmos.

    The same with “wen/问”. Primary meaning: ask, interrogate, inquire, etc. It also means probe, endeavor, conquer, find a solution, etc.

    Original Tianwen was “borrowed” from the poem by one of the most famous poet Mr.Qu Yuan living in the Warring States Period (about 340-278 BC), meaning “Heavenly Questions or Questions to Heaven , or “Quest/Probe for Heavenly/Universal Truth”

    So, “Tianwen-1” can be simply translated as “China Universe Probe-1”.

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