China has successfully landed its Zhurong rover on Mars.

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Artwork of the Zhurong robot: It’s a daunting prospect landing on Mars. Photo: China National Space Administration

China has successfully landed a satellite on Mars, according to state media early Saturday.

Utopia Planitia, a massive landscape in the planet’s northern hemisphere, was the target of the six-wheeled Zhurong robot.

To allow the descent, the car used a safety capsule, a parachute, and a rocket platform.

Given the difficulty of the mission, the good touchdown is a tremendous accomplishment.


Until now, only the Americans have really mastered landing on Mars. China has become the second country to land a rover on Mars with this landing.

Zhurong, which translates to “God of Fire,” was transported to Mars on the Tianwen-1 orbiter, which arrived above the earth in February.

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A Long March-5 rocket, carrying an orbiter, lander and rover as part of the Tianwen-1 mission to Mars, lifts off from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre in China's Hainan Province on July 23, 2020.

The Tianwen-1 mission lifted off from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre in China’s Hainan Province on July 23, 2020. Photo: AFP

The time since has been spent surveying Utopia, taking high-resolution images to pinpoint the safest place to put down.

The aim with all such ventures is to pick a spot, as far as possible, that is devoid of imposing craters and large boulders.

Chinese engineers have to follow events with a time lag.

The current distance to Mars is 320 million km, which means radio messages take almost 18 minutes to reach Earth.

No captionThe Tianwen-1 orbiter has been imaging the planet’s surface since its launch. AFP photo

As a result, each stage of the Zhurong’s approach to the surface must be handled independently.

The technique for entry (into the atmosphere), descent, and landing is well-known.

The rover, encased in an aeroshell, is freed from the Tianwen orbiter and dives downwards at the predetermined time.

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The capsule’s heatshield delays the plunge by pressing up against the Martian air. A parachute is then deployed to help reduce the velocity. Finally, the robot disembarks on a rocket-powered bench to perform the manoeuvres that will propel it to the ground.

It is a difficult task, but China has recently shown considerable expertise in its space endeavours, including the landing of two rovers on the Moon.
Now that Zhurong has successfully landed, scientists will attempt to extract at least 90 Martian days of operation from it by observing the local geology. On Mars, a day, or Sol, lasts 24 hours and 39 minutes.

The robot resembles the Spirit and Opportunity vehicles from the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) from the 2000s. It weights approximately 240kg and is powered by fold-out solar panels.

A tall mast holds cameras for photography and navigation; five additional instruments will help measure the mineralogy of local rocks and search for water-ice below ground.

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