This year seems to be all about space. NASA’s performed all sorts of Martian magic since the beginning of the year and now China, in the form of its Tianwen-1 Mars probe, has added its own spin to off-world exploration.
China’s Mars mission was due to arrive at the red planet a short time after NASA’s Perseverance mission and that’s just what took place. And, over the weekend, the country’s probe deposited itself, as well as its Zhurong rover, on the surface of Mars
Tianwen-1 touches down
The lander carrying China's first Mars rover #Zhurong has touched down on the Red Planet, the China National Space Administration confirmed on Saturday morning. Zhurong has been designed to operate in the Red Planet for at least 90 Martian days.
— CGTN (@CGTNOfficial) May 15, 2021
China’s probe and the accompanying Zhurong rover successfully landed on Mars, according to the country’s media. There was no live stream for us to check out, because China’s a little secretive like that, but it’s reportedly a success. Which is quite a remarkable feat.
Tianwen-1’s successful landing makes China the second country in the world to successfully land a rover on Mars. What’s more remarkable is that this is China’s first attempt at a landing (we’re not counting the loss of the country’s Yinghuo-1 orbiter in a failed 2011 Russian mission). Other countries like Russia, the UK, Japan, the European Union and even NASA have demolished previous landers on the red planet’s surface, so for China to nail it on their first shot isn’t terrible.
The Zhurong rover hasn’t been deployed as yet. It’s about 240kg, less than a quarter of the weight of Perseverance, but — if all goes well — China should get able to get a little science done. Mostly geological, but the country’s rover will also collect samples that will supposedly be collected for return to Earth in the next decade.