China lands its Zhurong rover on Mars

China lands its Zhurong rover on Mars
Artwork of the Zhurong robot: It's a daunting prospect landing on Mars. Source: CNSA
2 Min Read

Daily US Times: China has successfully landed a rover on Mars, state media announced early on Saturday.

The six-wheeled Zhurong robot spacecraft was targeting Utopia Planitia, a vast terrain in Mars’ northern hemisphere.

The robot used a combination of a protective capsule, a parachute and a rocket platform to make the descent.

The successful touchdown of the spacecraft is a remarkable achievement, given the difficult nature of the task.

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

Zhurong was carried to Mars on the Tianwen-1 orbiter, which arrived above the planet in February. Zhurong means God of Fire

The time since has been spent surveying Utopia, taking high-resolution pictures 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 kilometers, which means radio messages from the spacecraft take almost 18 minutes to reach Earth.

Every stage of the rover’s approach to the surface therefore has to be managed autonomously.

The entry (into the atmosphere), descent and landing strategy follows a familiar architecture.

At the chosen moment, the rover is released from the Tianwen orbiter and dives downwards.

A heatshield on the capsule slows the fall by pushing up against the Martian air. A parachute then opens to reduce the velocity still further. Finally, the robot breaks away on a rocket-powered bench for the manoeuvres that take it to the ground.

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