October 4, 2023

China lands on Mars for the first time with the rover "Zhurong"

China lands on Mars for the first time with the rover “Zhurong”

Landing on Mars

The simulated image graphically shows the landing of the Chinese probe on Mars. Photo: Jin Liwang / XinHua / dpa

(Photo: dpa)

Tianwen-1 separated from Earth last July and reached Mars orbit in February. The Chinese mission is one of three flights to Mars that took off from Earth last summer. The United Arab Emirates and the United States also sent missiles towards Mars at that time. The “persevering” rover landed in February.

So far, only the United States has managed to deploy reconnaissance vehicles to the red planet. The Soviet Union landed in the 1970s, but contact with the probe was cut off immediately. The journey to the Red Planet and landing is very difficult. Only about half of the previous landing attempts were successful.

Parachute motors and brakes slowed down the Chinese probe. The spacecraft was initially flying about 100 meters above the Martian surface to independently identify obstacles and find a landing site. Finally, the probe will safely land on the surface with all four legs.

State media quoted Jing Yan, an employee of the Chinese space program, that the maneuver was “very complicated”: “Each step only had one chance. The procedures were closely related. If there was only one mistake, the landing would have failed.” .

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After the successful landing, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported the beginning of a “new chapter” in space exploration. Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated the participating scholars.

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If everything goes according to plan, the “Zhurong” rover, named after the Chinese god of fire, which has landed in the Utopia Planitia, must wake up, operate and conduct investigations for at least three months.

The rover weighs about 240 kg. It has six wheels and four solar panels and can move at a speed of 200 meters per hour on the surface of Mars. The rover carries scientific tools with which to collect information about the planet’s surface composition, geological structure, and climate.

China is pressing ahead with its ambitious space program. After several successful trips to the moon, the People’s Republic began building its own space station at the end of April. A “Long March 5B” missile carried the “Tianhe” spacecraft, which weighs 22 tons, into space. It should form the basic unit of the space station, which should be completed “around the year 2022”.

In the coming weeks, two space flights will follow one after the other. In May, the “Tianzhu 2” cargo space ship could combine with fuel and supplies. Three astronauts are also preparing to travel to Tianhe aboard Shenzhou 12, possibly in June.