China’s space probe Tianwen-1 is expected to enter Mars’ orbit next month after traveling more than 400m km since its launch on July 23rd last year.
The probe has flown in space for 163 days and is currently around 8.3m km from Mars, according to the China National Space Administration.
The flight marks the start of the country’s independent planetary exploration mission.
“The probe is flying faster and faster as it gets out of the influence of heliocentric gravity,” explained Li Zhencai, the Deputy Commander of the project. “At present, the speed is basically stable at around 22km per second relative to Earth.”
That means that the probe is covering about 1.8km per day.
The spacecraft consists of an orbiter, a lander, and a rover.
It’s expected to touchdown on Mars in May 2021, about three months after arriving in the red planet’s orbit.
The distance between Mars and Earth changes periodically, from 50 million kilometres at its nearest and 400 million kilometres at its farthest.