China’s ‘Zhurong’ rover on Mars: All you need to know!
Zhurong Rover, named after the mythical Chinese god of fire, will spend around 90 Martian days on the planet studying the Martian geology and atmosphere.
Tianwen-1, China’s uncrewed spacecraft successfully landed on the surface of Mars on May 15, 2021. The landing of the spacecraft has made the country only the second in the world to send a rover for exploring the Red Planet.
‘Zhurong’ Rover was onboard the lander and the rover will soon be deployed to study the Martian geology and atmosphere. If ‘Zhurong rover’ is deployed without a hitch, China will be the first country to successfully orbit, land, and offload a rover during its Mars Mission.
The spacecraft has landed on a large plain that is located in the Northern Hemisphere of Mars, known as Utopia Planitia. The impressive descent by China’s spacecraft to the surface of Mars is also a major step in the country’s growing ambition to establish itself as a ‘great space power’.
Read below to know more about China’s mission to Mars and the ‘Zhurong’ rover.
Details about Zhurong Rover and how it will work on Mars?
Zhurong Rover, named after the mythical Chinese god of fire, will spend around 90 Martian days on the planet. As the spacecraft landed on the plant, the rover will not be immediately offloaded from the lander.
The probe sent on the planet will first be surveying the Utopia plane and will take high-resolution images to locate the safest spot to put the rover down. The aim will be to find a stretch of the land which is devoid of large boulders and craters.
After few days, Zhurong Rover will roll off the lander and will be joining the US Perseverance and Curiosity rovers to explore the surface of Mars.
Zhurong Rover, which weighs about 240 kgs, is slightly heavier than the Spirit and Opportunity Rovers of NASA, however, the rover is only one-fourth the weight of Perseverance and Curiosity.
Chinese rover powered by solar panels:
The Chinese rover has been powered by retractable solar panels and is fitted with seven primary instruments- ground-penetrating radar, cameras, a weather station, and a magnetic-field detector. The aim of the radar is to look for signs of ancient life as well as the subsurface water.
How did the Chinese rover land on Mars?
After orbiting around Mars for about 3 months preparing for a safe landing attempt, China’s lander carrying the rover separated from the orbiter and descended towards the surface of the Red Planet.
The target of the lander was to land on Utopia Planitia, which is a vast plain, measuring over 3,000 km across. The planitia was formed by an impact early in the history of Mars. The satellite findings have also indicated that a significant amount of the ice has been stored deep beneath the Utopia Planitia’s surface.
According to China Space News, there were ‘nine minutes of error’ as the landing module entered the Mars atmosphere, decelerating and gradually descending to the surface of the moon.
The rover, during the descent, was covered with an aeroshell for the initial phase and the speed of the capsule was also lowered after it started pushing against the Martian air. A parachute was also released for reducing the capsule’s velocity even further.
China’s Mars Mission: Background
The Tianwen-1 Mission, launched by the China National Space Administration in July 2020, consists of an orbiter, a golf-cart-sized rover called Zhurong, and a lander.
The spacecraft had arrived in Mars’s orbit in February 2021. The Mars mission by China aims at making full use of the opportunity which emerges only once every two years when Mars and the Earth are the closest together.
Through the mission, the Chinese scientists aim at exploring Mars and study its geology for at least 90 days via Zhurong Rover.
However, this is not the first time that China has attempted to send a spacecraft to Mars. Around 10 years ago, China had launched the Yinghuo-1 mission. However, the mission failed after the spacecraft burned while still in the Earth’s atmosphere after the Russian rocket which was carrying it failed in the flight.
Other countries that send rovers to Mars:
• Only the United States, apart from China, has been successful to deploy the rovers for studying the surface of the Red Planet.
• The first successful landing of the rover was made by NASA in July 1976, when the Viking 1 rover touched down the Mars. Shortly after that, Viking 2 also arrived on the red planet.
• The US has also successfully sent the Opportunity and the Spirit Rovers to explore the Red Planet.
• Most recently in February 2021, NASA’s Perseverance Rover had successfully landed at the Jezero Crater on Mars. After landing it resumed work to look for the signs of the past life.
• The former Soviet Union, in 1971, had also managed to launch a Mars probe. However, the communication was lost within the seconds of its landing.