It's getting crowded over there!
After traveling for seven months, China's spacecraft Tianwen-1 has finally reached Mars orbit as of Wednesday morning.
Tianwen-1, which is the China National Space Administration's first interplanetary mission, will now spend the next few months orbiting close to Mars' surface to take high-resolution images of the planet and study its environment and magnetic field before ultimately attempting to land, according to SpaceNews. Assuming the mission continues to go well, Mars is poised to become the second country to ever successfully land a vehicle on the Martian surface.
The Chinese spacecraft joins Hope, an orbiter launched by the United Arab Emirates, which reached Mars orbit just one day prior. But Hope will remain in orbit, waving goodbye as Tianwen-1 and NASA's Perseverance rover, currently en route, eventually make their way down to the surface.
The mission itself will be speedy compared to how long it took to prepare. According to SpaceNews, the Tianwen-1 orbiter is expected to survive for one Mars year — 687 days on Earth — and the rover is expected to survive for just 90 Earth days.
But part of the point of the mission, Macau University of Science and Technology researcher Zhang Xiaoping told SpaceNews, is to plan ahead for crewed missions in the future. In particular, that includes mapping out the locations of ice on and under the Martian surface.
"We want to use the radar system to measure the subsurface structure of the Martian surface, especially for the buried water ice," Zhang told SpaceNews, "This would allow us to study not only the underlying geologic structures of Mars, but also the potential source of water ice that supplies long-term human stay."
READ MORE: China’s Tianwen-1 enters orbit around Mars [SpaceNews]
More on Tianwen-1: Three Separate Countries Are Launching Mars Missions This Month