, Beijing, July 14th. Title: Interview with the chief designer of the Tianwen-1 Mars Orbiter: In the future, samples of the surface of Mars will be brought back to Earth

  Reporter Yu Zhanyi

  Tianwen-1 successfully landed on Mars, the "Zhurong" rover drove onto the surface of Mars, and the National Space Administration released real shots of Tianwen-1... Recently, Tianwen-1 has been frequently searched on social media, causing heated discussions.

  Niu Junpo, the chief designer of the Mars Orbiter at the 509th Research Institute of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation Ltd., recently accepted an exclusive interview with a reporter from, telling the story of his experience of "fire exploration".

He said that the country will plan to implement a Mars sampling and return mission in the future, and will bring Martian surface samples back to Earth.

  As the overall chief designer of the Mars Orbiter, the core distributor of China's first Mars exploration mission, Tianwen-1, Niu Junpo and his team undertook the task of developing the Mars Orbiter.

Niu Junpo has been involved in the demonstration phase of Mars exploration since 2010.

After the Tianwen No. 1 project was approved in 2016, he devoted himself to the design of the orbiter system, technical research, system testing, and current on-orbit flight control.

  Before Tianwen-1 obtained first-hand scientific data on Mars, most of the Chinese astronauts' understanding of Mars came from abroad.

In Niu Junpo's view, the first challenge facing the Chinese in exploring Mars is the uncertainty of environmental factors.

  "The data we have are mainly derived from detection data released by the United States, Russia, etc., but are these data accurate? Can they be used as input conditions for engineering development? We have no bottom in our hearts." He said, in order to offset these uncertain factors. In the process of design and development, researchers have adopted methods such as improving the reliability and redundancy of the system design, pulling the known data for testing, and putting forward higher requirements on the product to solve the problem.

  In addition to the uncertainty about the environment, long-distance "long-distance communication" is also a major problem.

  The farthest distance from the earth to Mars is 400 million kilometers, which is 1,000 times the distance from the earth to the moon.

Niu Junpo told reporters that the Tianwen-1 probe is mainly composed of two parts: the orbiter and the landing patrol (including the "Zhurong" Mars rover). The orbiting orbiting maneuver is carried out at the parked orbital orbiter. After the "Zhurong" is separated, it will continue. Ascend to the relay orbit and transform into a communicator, establishing a relay communication between the "Zhurong" and the earth.

Since the communication between the ground station and the detector is mainly realized by radio waves, the longer the distance, the weaker the received signal.

In addition, the ultra-long distance of 400 million kilometers will also cause the communication delay to become longer.

  "The distance between the probe and the earth is changing. The most recent time is about 55 million kilometers, and the farthest can reach 400 million kilometers, so the longest communication delay is as long as 22 minutes." Niu Junpo said, the communication delay controls The detector brings great influence and risk.

If the sun is located between the earth and the probe, it will also cause a long-term communication interruption. The operation of the probe cannot be seen on the ground, and the probe cannot receive ground instructions.

  In fact, these seemingly difficult issues were fully considered by scientists before the launch of the Tianwen-1 probe.

Niu Junpo said that the detector has already added autonomous functions as early as the design stage. In the case of communication delays and communication interruptions, the detector can complete on-orbit operation independently without relying on ground operation and control.

  Throughout the world’s aerospace history, Tianwen-1 not only left Chinese marks on Mars for the first time, but also successfully achieved the three major goals of circling, landing and patrolling Mars in a single mission.

  On May 15, 2021, the Tianwen-1 Landing Rover successfully landed on Mars.

On May 22, the "Zhu Rong" rover successfully departed from the landing platform, reached the surface of Mars, began to patrol and explore, and sent back precious image data to the earth.

On June 27, the China National Space Administration released a series of real shots of the Tianwen-1 Mars exploration mission landing and patrol exploration, including the parachute and descent process of the landing patrol, the sound of the "Zhu Rong" rover leaving the landing platform and Mars Surface moving process video, Mars global environment perception image, Mars rutting image, etc.

  According to Chinese official sources, as of July 8, the "Zhu Rong" rover with a design life of 3 Mars months, equivalent to about 92 Earth days, has been working on the Martian surface for 54 Mars days, and the navigation terrain camera is facing daily along the way. The topography is imaged, and the texture features of Martian rocks and Martian rutting can be seen in the picture.

As of July 11, the "Zhu Rong" Mars rover had traveled 410.025 meters in total and the operating conditions were normal.

  Niu Junpo said that the design life of the "Zhu Rong" has passed halfway, and the overall operation is in good condition.

At present, "Zhurong" can complete the preset three-day workload in one day.

  He said that the "Zhu Rong" was originally designed for a three-day cycle, including the perception of the surrounding environment, detection of images and data, route planning and movement.

However, after landing on Mars, the "Zhurong" was better than expected in terms of communication capabilities and moving speed, and could complete its sensing, detection, and movement within a day.

  Since there is no design to return, "Zhurong" will be in service for a period of time after the design life ends.

"Zhurong" itself has a direct-to-ground communication link, so even if the surround device cannot provide relay support, "Zhurong" can do other things.

Niu Junpo said frankly: "Our future work will also plan and implement sample return missions to bring samples of the surface of Mars back to Earth."

  "Just like Chang'e 5 could bring back to the lunar soil before, so that everyone can see the material from the surface of Mars." Niu Junpo said.

  After graduating from Beijing Jiaotong University in 2006, Niu Junpo entered Harbin Institute of Technology to continue his postgraduate studies, engaging in spacecraft-related subject research.

After graduation, considering his professional counterparts, he chose to work in aerospace systems.

During his work, Niu Junpo won the China Youth May Fourth Medal and the Second Prize of Shanghai Technical Invention.

  Niu Junpo told reporters that the proportion of young people working on the front line of aerospace is very high, and young people are full of passion, vitality and creativity.

The aerospace system has experienced seniors to guide and check, mature and stable colleagues to lead the team, and motivated young people to charge on the front line. It is a vigorous and vigorous group that can fight tough battles.

  Talking about his aerospace business, Niu Junpo said: "To choose this industry, we must always maintain interest and enthusiasm for work, stick to the original aspiration, maintain a sense of responsibility, and take the courageously, so that we can do our work well." (End)