China is moving boldly to dominate in 21st-Century space and science from being the first nation to explore the farside of the Moon, to creating a laser that can rip spacetime asunder to landing a spacecraft —six-wheeled Zhurong robot, named after the Chinese god of fire—on Mars for the first time on Saturday, a technically challenging feat more difficult than a moon landing.
Utopia Planitia Landing Spot
Plans call for a rover to stay in the lander for a few days of diagnostic tests before rolling down a ramp to explore an area of Mars known as Utopia Planitia, joining an American rover that arrived at the red planet in February. Utopia Plantia harbors the largest impact basin on Mars and in the Solar System, created billions of years ago by an asteroid the size of Pluto..
“China has left a footprint on Mars for the first time, an important step for our country’s space exploration,” the official Xinhua News Agency said following its launch last month of the main section of what will be a permanent space station and a mission that brought back rocks from the moon late last year. Xinhua said the entry capsule entered the Mars atmosphere at an altitude of 125 kilometers (80 miles), initiating what it called “the riskiest phase of the whole mission.”
The launch and Mars landing can be viewed from the video below from The South China Morning Press…
The U.S. has had nine successful landings on Mars since 1976, reports the Associated Press, While the Soviet Union landed on the planet in 1971, but the mission failed after the craft stopped transmitting information soon after touchdown
USA’s Perseverance Rover in Search for Ancient Life
Th Perseverance rover and a tiny helicopter from the American landing in February are currently exploring Mars. The helicopter first instance of powered, controlled flight on another planet. NASA expects the rover to collect its first sample in July for return to Earth in a decade. The Perseverance rover, a robotic “scientist” weighing 2,260 pounds (1,025 kilograms), will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.
A 200 square meter (2,150 square foot) parachute was deployed and later jettisoned, and then a retro-rocket was fired to slow the speed of the craft to almost zero, Xinhua said. The craft hovered about 100 meters (330 feet) above the surface to identify obstacles before touching down on four buffer legs. Upon touchdown, the rover had to open its solar panels and antenna, and then it took more than 17 minutes for its signals to traverse the distance between Mars and Earth.
“Each step had only one chance, and the actions were closely linked. If there had been any flaw, the landing would have failed,” said Geng Yan, an official at the China National Space Administration, according to Xinhua.The rover –About the size of a small car–is expected to be deployed for 90 days to search for evidence of life. The rover has ground-penetrating radar, a laser, and sensors to gauge the atmosphere and magnetic sphere.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, in a congratulatory letter to the mission team, called the landing “an important step in our country’s interplanetary exploration journey, realizing the leap from Earth-moon to the planetary system and leaving the mark of the Chinese on Mars for the first time. The motherland and people will always remember your outstanding feats!”
NASA Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen tweeted his congratulations, saying, “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.”
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