The Mars Ion and Neutral Particle Analyzer (MINPA) is one of the three scientific instruments onboard the Tianwen-1 orbiter to investigate the Martian space environment. During Tianwen-1’s transfer orbit to Mars, the MINPA was switched on to measure the solar wind ions. Here, we present the first results of the MINPA observations in the solar wind. During cruise, nearly half of the MINPA ion field-of-view (FOV) was blocked by the lander capsule; thus only the solar-wind ions with azimuthal speeds pointing towards the unblocked FOV sectors could be detected. We perform a detailed comparison of the MINPA’s solar wind observations with data from Earth-based missions when MINPA reached its count-rate peak, finding a general consistency of the ion moments between them. The blocking effect due to the lander is evaluated quantitatively under varying solar-wind velocity conditions. Despite the blocking effect, the MINPA’s solar wind measurements during the transfer orbit suggest a good performance.
The main objective of the Mars Ion and Neutral Particle Analyzer (MINPA) aboard the Chinese Mars Exploration Mission (Tianwen-1) is to study the solar wind–Mars interaction by measuring the ions and energetic neutral atoms (ENAs) near Mars. The MINPA integrates ion and ENA measurements into one sensor head, sharing the same electronics box. The MINPA utilizes a standard toroidal top-hat electrostatic analyzer (ESA) followed by a time of flight (TOF) unit to provide measurement of ions with energies from 2.8 eV to 25.9 keV and ENAs from 50 eV to 3 keV with a base time resolution of 4 seconds. Highly polished silicon single crystal substrates with an Al2O3 film coating are used to ionize the ENAs into positive ions. These ions can then be analyzed by the ESA and TOF, to determine the energy and masses of the ENAs. The MINPA provides a 360°×90° field of view (FOV) with 22.5°×5.4° angular resolution for ion measurement, and a 360°×9.7° FOV with 22.5°×9.7° angular resolution for ENA measurement. The TOF unit combines a –15 kV acceleration high voltage with ultra-thin carbon foils to resolve H+, He2+, He+, O+, O2+ and CO2+ for ion measurement and to resolve H and O (≥ 16 amu group) for ENA measurement. Here we present the design principle and describe our ground calibration of the MINPA.