SCIENCE CHINA Technological Sciences, Volume 60, Issue 5: 649-657(2017) https://doi.org/10.1007/s11431-016-9035-5

Mission overview and key technologies of the first Mars probe of China

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  • ReceivedDec 28, 2016
  • AcceptedMar 10, 2017
  • PublishedApr 18, 2017


The first Chinese Mars exploration will fulfill the goals of “orbiting, landing and roving” in one mission. This paper briefly describes the process of international Mars exploration and analyzes the development of Chinese Mars exploration. It focuses on introducing the scientific significance and engineering difficulties of Mars exploration, and provides an overview of the system design of the probe, including the flight profile, the preliminary selection of the landing site, the entry, descent and landing (also known as EDL) process. Four types of key technologies, including telecommunications, autonomous control, the EDL process, and its structure and mechanism, are detailed in this paper. Finally, the paper highlights the expected scientific and engineering results of the mission.


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  • Figure 1

    Configuration of the Mars probe.

  • Figure 2

    Tentative landing area on Mars.

  • Figure 3

    Mission profile of the Mars probe.

  • Table 1   Scientific missions and payload configurations of the orbiter

    Scientific mission


    Detection and analysis of the Martian ionosphere and the interplanetary environment.

    Mars magnetometer;

    Mars ion and neutral particle analyzer;

    Mars energetic particle analyzer

    Water and ice detection on the Martian surface and underground.

    Subsurface detection radar

    The type, distribution and structure of Martian soil.

    Subsurface detection radar;

    Mars mineral spectrum detector

    Detection of the topographic characteristics of Mars.

    Moderate resolution camera;

    High resolution camera;

    Subsurface detection radar of the orbiter

  • Table 2   Scientific missions and payload configurations of the rover

    Scientific mission


    Acquire topographic data of Mars, including characteristics such as slope, waviness and roughness.

    Navigation and topography camera

    Acquire multi-spectra images of the landing and roving areas. Acquire material composition and its distribution on the Martian surface.

    Multi-spectra camera

    Detect the soil thickness and ice layer structure in the roving area. Acquire ultra-bandwidth full-polarization echo data of the Martian surface and subsurface. Detect the subsurface structure in the roving area and acquire subsurface geological structure data.

    Subsurface detection radar

    Analyze the composition of the chemical elements of Martian surface materials. Perform mineral analysis and rock recognition on the Martian surface.

    Martian surface component detector

    In conjunction with the orbiting survey, detect and study the Mars spatial magnetic field, acquire the current of ionospheric dynamo by inversion, and study the conductivity of the Martian ionosphere.

    Martian surface magnetic field detector

    Measure the temperature and air pressure on the Martian surface. Perform in situ measurements of wind field parameters on the Martian surface.

    Mars climate detector

  • Table 3   Differences between the Mars and Lunar missions


    Lunar mission

    Mars mission

    Longer flight distance

    400 thousand kilometers

    400 million kilometers

    Higher requirements for independency

    1.35 s for one-way

    22 min for one-way

    Complication of mission environment

    Lunar surface is highly vacuum with intense solar power

    Thin atmosphere and dust on Mars, and the uncertainty of environmental parameters is high. The surface terrain is rough and the solar power is weak.

    Higher requirement of deceleration

    Decelerate 1.7 km/s from a height of 15 km to the lunar surface. Time spent is approximately 12 min [7]

    Decelerate 4.8 km/s from a height of 125 km to the Martian surface. Time spent is approximately 7 min.

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