China’s Tianwen-1 Mars mission team wins top aerospace award: IAF

China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft development team with the IAF World Space Award. / CAST

China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft development team with the IAF World Space Award. / CAST

China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft development team was awarded the World Space Award, the highest award by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), at the 73rd International Astronautical Congress held in Paris, France, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) said on Monday.

The team “offered an innovative option for successful Mars exploration” and made “outstanding contributions” to the advancement of deep space exploration technology, said the IAF.

China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft development team won the IAF World Space Award. / CAST

China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft development team won the IAF World Space Award. / CAST

The Tianwen-1 probe consists of an orbiter, a lander and a rover. It launched on July 23, 2020, and touched down at its pre-selected landing area in Utopia Planitia, a vast Martian plain, on May 15, 2021, marking the first time China has landed a probe on the planet.

As of August 15, 2021, the rover, Zhurong, had worked on the surface of Mars for 90 Martian days. It switched to dormant mode while waiting out a dust storm and the winter season on the red planet in May. Meanwhile, the orbiter continues to carry out scientific exploration in the remote sensing mission orbit, according to the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), a subordinate of the CASC.

The orbiter has been operating for over 780 days, and the rover has traveled 1,921 meters on the surface of Mars as of last Thursday. Completing the targeted scientific exploration missions, the orbiter and rover acquired 1,480 gigabytes of raw scientific data.

The country’s first Mars exploration mission has achieved orbiting, landing and roving on Mars in one mission for the first time in history. The CAST said it “shows the wisdom of Chinese people and indicates that China has leaped to the front ranks in planetary exploration.”

The IAF World Space Award is the Federation’s most prestigious award. It presented to scientists who have made an exceptional impact to the progress of the world space activities through outstanding contribution in space science, technology, medicine, law or management.

It’s the second time a Chinese aerospace team has been granted the honor. In July 2020, three scientists from the country’s Chang ‘e-4 lunar landing mission team had won the award, which soft landed on the far side of the moon for the first time in history and sustained relay communication between the far side of the moon and the Earth.

Read more:

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China unveils first scientific outcome of Tianwen-1 SEP observations

Beyond Infinity: One year on Tianwen-1’s triumphant landing on Mars