China becomes second country in history to land rover on Mars

China becomes second country in history to land rover on Mars

Beijing: 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 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 lander, carrying a Mars rover, 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 a.m. (Beijing Time), the CNSA said.

It took ground controllers more than an hour to establish the success of the pre-programmed landing. They had to wait for the rover to autonomously unfold its solar panels and antenna to send the signals after landing, and there was a time delay of more than 17 minutes due to the 320-million-km distance between the Earth and Mars.

"The Mars landing of the Tianwen-1 mission has been a total success," Zhang Kejian, head of the CNSA announced.

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.

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. All other countries that have tried have either crashed or lost contact soon after reaching the surface of the Mars.

Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA was quick to congratulate China.

"Congratulations to CNSA's #Tianwen1 team for the successful landing of China's first Mars exploration rover, #Zhurong!

"Together with the global science community, I look forward to the important contributions this mission will make to humanity's understanding of the Red Planet," Zurbuchen tweeted.

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.

President Xi Jinping has congratulated the space scientists on the successful landing of China's first probe on Mars.

Xi said in the message that the landing marks an important step in China's interstellar exploration and a leap from the exploration of the Earth-Moon system to interplanetary exploration.

"The landing left a Chinese mark on Mars for the first time. It is another landmark progress in China's space industry development," said Xi. Agencies

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