On Saturday, China became the second country in the world, following the United States, to successfully touchdown its Zhurong rover on the Martian surface. The Tianwen-1 spacecraft carried the Zhurong rover, an orbiter and a lander to Mars.
The mission began in July 2020 when this spacecraft was launched by China. Since February 2021, its orbiter had been orbiting Mars and finally the spacecraft made a successful touchdown on the Red Planet, further landing its Zhurong rover.
Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated the Tianwen-1 mission team on Saturday. He said, “The motherland and people will always remember your outstanding feats!”
Significant Accomplishment for ‘Dragon’
With the safe and successful touchdown of its rover on Mars, China has achieved a greater ‘milestone’ in its space exploration program that aims to rival NASA.
Hitherto, the United States was the only country to successfully land its rover on the Mars and deploy it for exploration. Although, the former Soviet Union managed to land on Mars in 1971, the mission was only a partial success because their lander crashed on the Martian surface and became inoperable. If we take the Russian landing into account, then China is the third to land on Mars. However, China is second when it comes to rover deployment.
Earlier in Feb 2021, NASA’s Perseverance rover had made the first successful historic landing on Mars and is aims towards exploring and studying about ancient microbial life on the Red Planet.
The associate director of NASA’s science mission team, Thomas Zurbuchen wrote on his twitter handle:
On Saturday, Tianwen-1 released an entry capsule containing a lander and a rover that plunged into the Martian atmosphere. According to reports, the Zhurong was “encased in an aeroshell for the initial phase of the nine-minute descent.” The entry-capsule made a safe landing at 7:18 pm Eastern time, Friday. However, the ground controllers took an hour to determine the mission’s success. During its perilous decent, the spacecraft operated autonomously.Hence, the rover could not transmit signals back to the Earth until it touched down and unfolded its antenna and solar panels.
Zhurong has landed on the Utopia Planitia crater, which is a plain inside the largest impact basin on Mars. Earlier in 1976, the Viking 2 lander was also launched here.
Zhurong got its name after mythical Chinese god of fire. It will spend 90 Martian days (which is around 24 hours and 39 minutes) on the planet.
It is composed of a multispectral camera that will interpret the mineral composition of the rocks while other cameras will click pictures of these nearby rocks. Also, it consists of a spectrometer enhanced with laser technology which could annihilate rocks to study them. Its ground-penetrating radar could help scientists to understand the geological processes that led to the formation of Mars.
It is the first rover to be fitted with a magnetometer. This could help in measuring the surrounding magnetic field of the rover and understanding that how the planet lost its strong magnetic field.
Zhurong will basically study Martian atmosphere and its surface soil and search for traces of ancient life. Scientists believe that Utopia Planitia may consist of underground ice because speculations are made regarding it being covered with a Martian ocean earlier.