China completes Mars spacecraft touchdown

Beijing, May 15

China on Saturday successfully landed a spacecraft on Mars after surviving “nine minutes of terror”, becoming the second country in history to have a rover on the red planet.

The rover, Zhurong, named after a god of fire in Chinese mythology, successfully landed at the pre-selected area in Utopia Planitia on Mars, the official Xinhua news agency reported on the Communist giant’s latest achievement in its ambitious goals in space. The six-wheel solar-powered Zhurong rover weighs about 240 kg 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 the lander touched down at its pre-selected landing area in the southern part of Utopia Planitia, a vast plain on the northern hemisphere of Mars, at 7.18 am (Beijing Time).

It took ground controllers more than an hour to establish the success of the pre-programmed landing. Zhang Rongqiao, chief designer of China’s first Mars exploration mission, said that the landing had been a textbook case of accuracy. More than 40 Mars missions have been launched since the 1960s, but only about half have succeeded. The success rate for landing is even lower. — PTI

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