World China's First Mars Landing Imminent As Zhurong Rover Prepares to Hit Red Planet
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China is preparing to land its first rover on the surface of Mars. The authorities in Beijing have not specified exactly when the landing is scheduled, but it could be as soon as Friday, May 14.
The China National Space Administration has named its rover Zhurong, after the god of fire in ancient Chinese mythology. The CNSA announced the name last month, saying it echoed "the Chinese name of the red planet, Huoxing, meaning the planet of fire."
The rover has been in orbit around Mars since February aboard the, China's first fully domestic Mars mission.
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Now Tianwen-1 will send a lander and rover to the surface of the planet. If successful, China will become only the second country to operate a rover on Mars for an extended period—after the U.S.
On Friday morning, the CNSA released a statement on the landing plans for the Zhurong rover.
It read: "According to the current flight situation, the Tianwen-1 probe [will] choose an opportunity to land on the Martian Utopia Plain from the early morning of May 15 to May 19, Beijing time."
The time in Beijing is 12 hours ahead of EDT, so the landing could occur on May 14 for observers in the United States.
Before the space agency's statement, there had been speculation onthat a landing time of 23:11 UTC (19:11 EDT) had been given, according to a source quoting Ye Peijian, an official at the China Academy of Space Technology.
the Chinese rover "Zhurong" should land on Mars tonight
© AFP Photo / China National Space Administration This photo undated, published on March 3, 2021 by the Chinese National Space Agency (CNSA), shows an image of Mars captured by the Chinese Tianwen-1 probe. China is preparing to attempt the landing at the surface of March of its small remote robot "Zhurong". A particularly delicate operation that testifies to the more and more bold spatial ambitions of Beijing. The spatial conquest continues.
So here comes the #SevenMinutesOfTerror With Chinese Characteristics.
Tomorrow it is.
According to a source quoting CAST's chief adviser of Interplanetary Exploration Ye Peijian in a conference this morning, Tianwen-1's lander/rover will land on May 14 23:11 UTC! pic.twitter.com/whmiBmPr6N— Cosmic Penguin (@Cosmic_Penguin) May 13, 2021
If and when Zhurong touches down successfully on the Martian surface, it will join two activerovers, Curiosity and Perseverance.
The Zhurong rover aims to study Mars' magnetic field, see what the planet's surface is made from and research the weather, among other things. It comes equipped with a radar that could detect water beneath the planet's surface—the first rover to conduct such a search from the ground, according to the Planetary Society non-profit based in Pasadena, California.
Landing on Mars is notoriously difficult. According to an article in the journal Nature, engineers have to pre-program the landing procedure into the spacecraft because the distance between Earth and Mars is so great that communication signals can't travel back and forth quickly enough to allow engineers to control the landing.
China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft completes historic Mars landing
Solar-powered rover, named Zhurong, will now survey the landing site before departing platform to conduct inspections. Named after a mythical Chinese god of fire, Zhurong has six scientific instruments including a high-resolution topography camera. The rover will study the planet’s surface soil and atmosphere. Zhurong will also look for signs of ancient life, including any sub-surface water and ice, using ground-penetrating radar. Tianwen-1, or “Questions to Heaven”, named after a Chinese poem written two millennia ago, is China’s first independent mission to Mars.
So far, the U.S. is the only country to have operated a rover on Mars for an extended period of time. The Soviet Union successfully landed a probe on Mars in 1971, but it died seconds later.
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The Zhurong is expected to spend about three months on the planet to study its surface soil and atmosphere.The rover was carried to Mars on the uncrewed spacecraft Tianwen-1 on Saturday, in the first successful probe landing by any country on its first mission to the planet.