On February 10th, a Chinese spacecraft is preparing to enter orbit around Mars.
This takes place one day after an orbiter from the UAE entered orbit around the Red Planet.
The US plans to land another spacecraft on Mars in about a week’s time. Only the U.S. has successfully touched down on Mars — eight times beginning with the two Viking missions. A lander and rover are in operation today.
Chinese authorities, always cautious about possible failure, have not announced a planned arrival time.
The official Xinhua News Agency reported that the spacecraft was expected to slow down around Wednesday before entering orbit and preparing for a Mars landing.
The challenging attempt to touch down on Mars isn’t expected for about three months. If it works out, China will become the second nation to ever do so.
Named Tianwen-1, the Chinese orbiter-rover combo needs to fire its engines to slow enough to be captured by Mars’ gravity after a 470-million-kilometer journey that took more than six months. It would circle and map Mars until the rover separates and attempts to land in May to look for water underground and signs of ancient life.
The latest three Mars missions were all launched in July to take advantage of the planet’s close alignment with Earth that occurs only every two years. The UAE’s orbiter called Amal, Arabic for Hope, began circling the red planet on February 9th to gather detailed data on Mars’ atmosphere.
The new space race is on, and unlike in the past when only the US and the USSR could take part, now (almost) everybody has the ambition to do so.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan revealed a 10-year space program on February 9th.
It includes ambitious plans such as sending Turkish astronauts to the moon.
“The first rough landing will be made on the moon with our national and authentic hybrid rocket that shall be launched into orbit in the end of 2023 through international cooperation,” said Erdogan. “God willing, we are going to the moon,” he added.
2023 is also the 100th anniversary of the Turkish republic.
Erdogan also outlined plans to build a spaceport and create a “global brand” in satellite technology.
“I hope that this roadmap, which will carry Turkey to the top league in the global space race, will come to life successfully,” he said.
Turkey started its space agency in 2018, despite criticism over spending large amounts of money on the project amid an economic crisis. However, supporters of the project see it as an opportunity to retain researchers and reduce a brain drain.
Erdogan didn’t reveal any more details. In January 2021, he spoke to Elon Musk, the chief executive of SpaceX, on cooperating on space technologies with Turkish companies.
Back then, Turkey launched its Turksat 5A satellite into orbit from the US in cooperation with SpaceX.
“Our feet will be on earth but our eyes will be in space. Our roots will be on earth, our branches will be up in the sky,” said Erdogan.
Surprisingly, Erdogan didn’t say that the Moon was part of the historical lands of Turkey, and under Ottoman rule. There are also no Turkic brothers to rejoin there.
Regardless, all the talk about the new space race, space militarization, (potentially) shared resources and whatnot appear to prompt many states to try and participate in it.
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