China Has Successfully Landed Its Own Mars Rover
NASA’s Perseverance has some company on Mars as China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft has successfully landed on the Red Planet.
As reported by The New York Times, China had revealed little of its plans prior to the landing and, while China’s state television did not report on the landing live, it dedicated hours of coverage following its touchdown.
“This is another milestone advance in our country’s aerospace endeavors,” China’s president Xi Jinping said in a statement. “You have had the courage for challenge, have strove for excellence and have brought our country to the global forefront of interplanetary exploration.”
The Tianwen-1 mission launched from Earth in July 2020 to take advantage of a window every two years when Mars and Earth are closest to each other. It made it to Martian orbit on February 10 and stayed in orbit until it was ready for landing.
Tianwen-1’s landing craft held the rover – which is named Zhurong, after the god of fire in Chinese folk tales – and it is about one-fourth the weight of NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance.
Zhurong is powered by solar panels and it includes “cameras, a ground-penetrating radar, a magnetic field detector, and a weather station.”
Tianwen-1 landed in Utopia Planitia, also known as “Nowhere Land Plain,” and is the same region where NASA’s Viking 2 lander landed in 1976. This area of Mars is a huge basin that is a couple thousand miles wide and could have been under an ocean in the distant past.
One of China’s main goals for this mission is to “better understand the distribution of ice in the region, which future human colonists on Mars could use to sustain themselves.”
NASA’s Perseverance landed on Mars on February 18, 2021, and has a goal of seeking signs of habitable life and “past microbial life.” Since then, NASA’s Mars Ingenuity helicopter made history by successfully completing the first powered, controlled flight on another planet.