Monday, 6 December 2021

China completes historic Mars spacecraft landing

An uncrewed Chinese spacecraft successfully landed on the surface of Mars on Saturday, state news agency Xinhua reported, making China the second space-faring nation after the United States to land on the Red Planet.

The Tianwen-1 spacecraft landed on a site on a vast plain known as Utopia Planitia, “leaving a Chinese footprint on Mars for the first time,” Xinhua said.

The craft left its parked orbit at about 1700 GMT on Friday. The landing module separated from the orbiter three hours later and entered the Martian atmosphere, the official China Space

It said the landing process consisted of “nine minutes of terror” as the module decelerates and then slowly descends.

A solar-powered rover, named Zhurong, will now survey the landing site before departing from its platform to conduct inspections.

Named after a mythical Chinese god of fire, Zhurong has six scientific instruments including a high-resolution topography camera.

The rover will study the planet’s surface soil and atmosphere. Zhurong will also look for signs of ancient life, including any sub-surface water and ice, using a ground-penetrating radar.

Tianwen-1, or “Questions to Heaven”, after a Chinese poem written two millennia ago, is China’s first independent mission to Mars. A probe co-launched with Russia in 2011 failed to leave the Earth’s orbit.

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