By K J M Varma :
CHINA has successfully landed a spacecraft on Mars after surviving “nine minutes of terror”, the official media announced on Saturday, becoming the second country in history to have a rover on the red planet. The rover, Zhurong, named after a god of fire and war in Chinese mythology, landed at the pre-selected area in Utopia Planitia on Mars, the State-run ‘Xinhua news agency’ reported. The six-wheel solar-powered Zhurong rover weighs about 240 kilogrammes and carries six scientific instruments. It will be later deployed from the lander for a three-month mission in search of life on Mars’ surface. Tianwen-1, consisting of an orbiter, a lander and a rover, was launched on July 23, 2020. It was the first step in China’s planetary exploration of the solar system, with the aim of completing orbiting, landing and roving on the red planet in one mission. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) said in a statement that its rover has successfully landed on Mars on Saturday after “nine minutes of terror”.
“The scientific research team confirmed via the telemetry signal sent by the “Zhu Rong” Mars rover that on May 15th, the Tianwen-1 Lander successfully landed in the pre-selected landing area in the Utopia Plain of southern Mars,” it said. The successful touchdown of the Chinese spacecraft on Mars is a remarkable achievement, given the difficult nature of the task. Only the Americans have really mastered landing on Mars until now. With this landing, China becomes the second country to put a rover on Mars. Significantly, it will now be a space race on Mars as the Chinese spacecraft has landed three months after the successful landing of US space agency NASA’s Perseverance rover which is busy exploring the red planet’s surface with a helicopter hovering around. Previously the US, Russia, the European Union and India have succeeded in sending a spacecraft to Mars, regarded as the most complex space mission. Chinese President Xi Jinping has congratulated the CNSA on the successful landing of China’s first probe on Mars.
On behalf of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, the State Council and the Central Military Commission (CMC), Xi, extended warm congratulations and sincere greetings to all members who have participated in the Mars exploration mission, Tianwen-1. The Perseverance and Zhurong explore different parts of Mars. While the Perseverance landed in a deep crater near the planet’s equator called Jezero, the six-wheeled Zhurong rover would target Utopia Planitia, a vast terrain in the planet’s northern hemisphere. China’s mission to Mars followed successful missions to Moon including landing a rover.
Last month China has put into orbit a core module as part of its effort to build a space station of its own to rival the ageing International Space Station, (ISS), which is a multinational collaborative project involving five participating space agencies which included NASA, (US), Roscomos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe) and CSA (Canada).