#astronomy China’s Zhurong Rover Lands on Mars – Sky & Telescope

May 17, 2021 - Comment

An artist’s idea of Zhurong on Mars. CNSA There’s a brand new participant within the Mars touchdown membership. On Could 14th, at 7:18 p.m. EDT / 23:18 Common Time (UT) (early Saturday Beijing Time), China’s Zhurong rover skilled its personal “9 minutes of terror” earlier than touching down on Mars within the plains of Utopia


Zhurong landerAn artist’s idea of Zhurong on Mars.
CNSA

There’s a brand new participant within the Mars touchdown membership. On Could 14th, at 7:18 p.m. EDT / 23:18 Common Time (UT) (early Saturday Beijing Time), China’s Zhurong rover skilled its personal “9 minutes of terror” earlier than touching down on Mars within the plains of Utopia Planitia. The touchdown web site is close to 109.9°E, 25.1°N.

This makes China the fifth nation to aim a touchdown on Mars and solely the second behind the US to totally succeed. Most not too long ago, European House Company’s Schiaparelli lander failed in 2016, and the UK’s Beagle 2 lander failed in 2003. The previous Soviet Union made seven touchdown makes an attempt and got here closest to success with Mars three in 1971, which fell silent 110 seconds after reaching the floor.

The Tianwen 1 mission (that means “inquiries to the heavens” in Chinese language) is an bold, all-in-one bundle together with orbiter, lander and rover — a primary for any area company. It launched in July 2020 and arrived in orbit round Mars in February 2021. The orbiter served as a relay for communications through the touchdown.

Simulation picture of the Zhurong rover on its touchdown platform in Utopia Planitia, from CNSA. https://t.co/8YFFLDmnBP pic.twitter.com/9csHiveTUK

— Andrew Jones (@AJ_FI) Could 17, 2021

The rover completed entry, descent, and touchdown utilizing a parachute and retro-rocket mixture, adopted by autonomous hazard avoidance on last method.

Welcome to Utopia Planitia

A topographical map of Mars exhibits the areas for previous and future missions. Profitable previous and present missions are proven in white; failed missions are proven in black.
Touchdown websites: E. Lakdawalla; Basemap: MOLA science crew / NASA Goddard

If the identify of the touchdown web site sounds acquainted, that’s as a result of NASA’s Viking 2 mission efficiently landed in the identical normal area in 1976. China hasn’t launched any photos from the touchdown web site, and the China Nationwide House Administration (CNSA) solely launched a short assertion over the weekend to announce that the touchdown was profitable.

“Mars exploration is dangerous and troublesome,” says the translated CNSA press launch. “The Tianwen-1 mission has damaged by key applied sciences in interplanetary flight, measurement and management communication, gentle touchdown and achieved (China’s) first planetary touchdown in a major growth for China’s aerospace trade.”

Now, the 240-kilogram (529-pound) Zhurong rover (whose identify means “god of fireplace” in Chinese language) sits atop the touchdown platform, able to discover the encompassing plains. The rover/touchdown platform mixture utilized by Zhurong is much like the Yutu “Jade Rabbit” mixture fielded by China through the Chang’e sequence of lunar landings. A panorama of the touchdown web site is predicted within the coming days.

Congratulations to CNSA’s #Tianwen1 crew for the profitable touchdown of China’s first Mars exploration rover, #Zhurong! Along with the worldwide science neighborhood, I stay up for the necessary contributions this mission will make to humanity’s understanding of the Purple Planet. pic.twitter.com/KexElIu8OH

— Thomas Zurbuchen (@Dr_ThomasZ) Could 15, 2021

Zhurong’s main mission will final about three months. The solar-powered rover is supplied with six science packages, together with a laser spectrometer, a local weather climate bundle, a magnetometer, imagers, and ground-penetrating radar. One of many predominant targets for Zhurong is to seek for subsurface water ice on Mars, offering “floor fact” from its touchdown web site whereas the Tianwen 1 orbiter searches for a similar from its greater vantage level.

Collaboration and Competitors

The European House Company’s ground-based community and Mars Specific orbiter assisted with monitoring the Tianwen 1 mission and the touchdown. Argentina, Austria, and France additionally collaborated on the mission: Argentina supplied floor monitoring from its Las Lajas monitoring station, Austria developed the magnetometer aboard the Tianwen-1 orbiter, and France provided a spectrometer calibration goal aboard Zhurong that could be a duplicate of the one aboard Mars Curiosity.

Nonetheless, as with a lot of what China is doing in area, many of the data on the touchdown got here out through state-run tv, beginner radio operators monitoring the mission, and observers of the Chinese language area program.

Mars surfaceA high-resolution picture of the floor of Mars captured by the Tianwen 1 orbiter.
CNSA

This profitable touchdown follows a latest string of accomplishments for China’s spaceflight program, together with the Chang’e-Four lunar farside mission touchdown in early 2019, the Chang’e-5 lunar pattern return mission in late 2020, and fielding the Tianhe core for its new modular area station simply final month.

China has alluded to potential plans to hold out a pattern return mission from Mars by the shut of the last decade. NASA has related ambitions with Perseverance, which not too long ago landed at Jezero Crater and can stash samples for a future return mission. The following Mars touchdown within the queue is the European House Company’s Rosalind Franklin rover, set to launch in late 2022.



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