China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft completes historic landing on Mars Space News

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The solar-powered rover, called Zhurong, will now explore the landing site before leaving its platform for inspections.

An unmanned Chinese spacecraft successfully landed on the surface of Mars on Saturday, according to state news agency Xinhua, which made China the second nation of space travel after the United States to land on the red planet.

The Tianwen-1 spacecraft landed at a site on a vast plain known as Utopia Planitia, “leaving a Chinese footprint on Mars for the first time,” Xinhua said.

The vessel left its orbit parked around 17:00 GMT on Friday (Saturday at 1:00 Beijing time).

The landing module separated from orbit three hours later and entered the Martian atmosphere, China Space News official said.

He said the landing process consisted of “nine minutes of terror” as the module decelerates and then slowly descends.

A solar-powered rover, named Zhurong, will now explore the landing site before leaving its platform to conduct inspections. Zhurong, named after a mythical Chinese god of fire, features six scientific instruments, including a high-resolution topography camera.

The rover will study the earth and the planet’s surface atmosphere. Zhurong will also look for signs of ancient life, including groundwater and ice, using a radar that penetrates the ground.

Tianwen-1, or “Questions in the Sky,” named after a Chinese poem written two millennia ago, is China’s first independent mission to Mars. A probe co-launched with Russia in 2011 could not leave Earth’s orbit.

The five-ton spacecraft took off from China’s southern island of Hainan in July last year, launched by the powerful Long March 5 rocket.

After more than six months of transit, Tianwen-1 arrived on Mars in February, where it has been in orbit ever since.

The five-ton spacecraft took off from China’s southern island of Hainan in July last year, launched by the powerful Long Rocket March 5 [File: China Daily via Reuters]

If Zhurong is successfully deployed, China would be the first country to orbit, land and release a rover on its inaugural mission to Mars.

Tianwen-1 was one of three to arrive on Mars in February, with the American rover Perseverance successfully hitting on February 18 in a huge depression called Jezero Crater, more than 2,000 kilometers from Utopia Planitia.

Hope, the third spacecraft to reach Mars in February this year, is not designed to land. Launched by the United Arab Emirates, it currently orbits Mars collecting data on its climate and atmosphere.

The first successful landing was made by NASA’s Viking 1 in July 1976 and then by Viking 2 in September of that year. A Mars probe launched by the former Soviet Union landed in December 1971, but communication was lost seconds after landing.

China is pursuing an ambitious space program. It is testing reusable spacecraft and also plans to establish a manned lunar research station.

In a comment posted on Saturday, Xinhua said China “did not want to compete for leadership in space,” but pledged to “reveal the secrets of the universe and contribute to the peaceful use of space by of humanity “.





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