China’s Tianwen-1 Mars Mission Team Wins International Space Award

China’s Tianwen-1 Mars mission team has won this year’s International Astronautical Federation (IAF) World Space Award, an award recognizing a person or a team for exceptional contributions to space exploration, during the 73rd International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Paris, held from September 18 to 22.

The award aims to recognize outstanding achievements in space science and technology, space medicine, space engineering management and other fields. It is the second time China has earned this award after scientists from Chang’e-4’s lunar landing team won it in 2020.

The IAF said the team has made outstanding contributions to the advancement of Mars exploration and has boosted the development of deep space exploration technology.

Pascale Ehrenfreund, president of the IAF said to Xinhua News: “China’s Mars exploration mission has been a huge success, including an orbiter, lander and rover on its first launch. The Tianwen-1 mission is extremely complex. It needs the environment itself to be in a perfect position for the lander and rover to land successfully on Mars.”

The Tianwen-1 Mars mission was approved in January 2016. The Mars probe was launched in July 2020, and after seven months of transit through the inner Solar System, the spacecraft entered Martian orbit on February 10, 2021. On 14 May 2021, the lander/rover portion of the mission successfully touched down on Mars. The Zhurong rover, which is named after the god of fire in Chinese mythology, landed on the planet in May 2021.

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By September 15, 2022, the Tianwen-1 had been in orbit for more than 780 days, completing its set scientific exploration mission and acquiring 1,480 GB of raw data. The scientific research team in China has thus acquired a wealth of scientific results through the study of its primary data. The Zhurong rover entered a rehabilitation stage in May 2022 due to cold weather, and it is expected to resume work in December 2022.

During the Tianwen-1 Mars mission, the team carried out a number of jobs with international counterparts, such as a data relay experiment between the Zhurong rover and the Mars Express orbiter of the European Space Agency.