By CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — China’s Tianwen-1 mission successfully reached Mars orbit on Wednesday after a nearly 7-month journey from Earth, Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua confirmed.
China’s arrival on the Red Planet comes a day after the United Arab Emirates’ Hope probe reached Mars’ orbit. It also comes approximately a week before the U.S. is set to land NASA’s Perseverance rover on Earth’s neighboring planet.
The three nations launched their separate Mars missions within days of each other this past July when a once-in-every-two-years launch window opened. The missions took advantage of the rare opportunity to send the missions using the least amount of energy to get from Earth to Mars. Now, the three nations are arriving at Mars one-by-one this February.
China’s ambitious Tianwen-1 mission features an orbiter, a lander and a rover. Tianwen-1 means “Questions to Heaven” and comes from an ancient Chinese poem, Xinhua reported.
Last Friday, the Tainwen-1 sent back its first image of Mars as it approached the planet, according to the Chinese National Space Agency. The black-and-white image was taken approximately 1.3 million miles away from Mars.
Tianwen-1 is expected to orbit Mars over the next few months and survey potential landing sites for a May or June landing. After the landing, the rover will explore the Red Planet and conduct scientific experiments, according to Xinhua.
Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, tweeted his congratulations to China on Wednesday.
“There is much to discover about the mysteries of Mars and we look forward to your contributions!” the NASA official wrote.
On Tuesday, NASA also congratulated the United Arab Emirates, tweeting an Arab poem from its official handle for the Perseverance rover.
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