China’s Zhurong Rover Lands on Mars

Chinese rover Zhurong successfully landed on Mars on Saturday, making China the second country to succeed in the task.

State media Xinhua News reported that the China National Space Administration (CNSA) confirmed the successful landing on Saturday morning and called the mission “another important milestone for China’s space exploration.”

The United States landed spacecraft on Mars in 1976. The Soviet Union had done the same in 1971, but its spacecraft stopped transmitting information soon after touchdown.

Prior to this attempt to land on Mars, China had landed on the moon in 2013. Getting to Mars is far more complicated, however, as it requires the parachutes and rockets to be deployed at precise times for landing at the designated spot. The spacecraft also needs to survive the heat when entering the Martian atmosphere.

“Each step had only one chance, and the actions were closely linked. If there had been any flaw, the landing would have failed,” said Geng Yan, an official at the China National Space Administration, according to Xinhua.

Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated the China National Space Administration on the success of the Mars landing mission, calling it an important step for the country’s space exploration operations. NASA Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen also tweeted his congratulations: “Congratulations to CNSA’s #Tianwen1 team for the successful landing of China’s first Mars exploration rover, #Zhurong! Together with the global science community, I look forward to the important contributions this mission will make to humanity’s understanding of the Red Planet.”

The Tianwen-1 spacecraft – whose name means “questing the sky” – entered the Martian orbit in February after a 6.5 month-long journey from Earth. The rover is named after the Chinese god of fire, Zhurong and will explore Mars searching for soil, information about geology and the environment, as well as evidence of life.

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CNN reported that the Zhurong rover weighs approximately 240 kilograms and carries six scientific instruments. The rover is expected to conduct research for 90 days.