Saturday 15 May 2021

China successfully lands probe on Mars.

The China National Space Administration has successfully landed a probe on Utopia Planitia, a vast lava plain in Mars' northern hemisphere. The lander comprises the Zhurong Rover, a six wheeled mobile vehicle armed with an array of instruments, plus a supporting platform with a radio transmitter enabling it to communicate with the orbiting Tianwen-1 spacecraft, and thence to Earth. The successful landing makes China only the second nation to have landed a probe on Mars, with the United States having completed several successful landings, but several attempts by the Russian and European space agencies having failed.

An artist's impression of the Zhurong Rover surveying the surface of Mars. Aerospace China/China National Space Administration/Wikimedia Commons.

The Tianwen-1 mission was launched from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on 23 July 2020, and entered orbit around Mars on 24 February 2021, with the probe setting down on Utopia Planitia at 7.18 am on Saturday 15 May 2021, Beijing time (11.18 pm on Friday 14 May, GMT). The Zhurong Rover is equipped with seven kinds of scientific instruments: two remote-sensing cameras, the Mars-Orbiting Subsurface Exploration Radar, the Mars Mineralogy Spectrometer, the Mars Magnetometer, the Mars Ion and Neutral Particle Analyzer and the Mars Energetic Particle Analyzer.


An animation shows how the Zhurong Rover touched down. BBC.

The name 'Zhurong' (祝融) was chosen by a popular online vote from a list of ten candidate names. It is the name of a fire god traditionally worshiped in southern China, which ties in with the Chinese name for the planet Mars, Huoxing (火星), meaning 'Fire Planet'.

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