China has landed a spacecraft on Mars – the latest step in its ambitious space program. The Chinese rover will stay in its lander for a few days of tests before exploring the Red Planet. The rover has yet to send back any images from Mars, but here’s the story of how it got there — and what the mission aims to find out.
After a treacherous journey through the Martian atmosphere, the Chinese spacecraft Tianhe lands safely on the red planet.
A major triumph for Beijing’s space ambitions, and the culmination of years of hard work.
"This was not an easy task. It’s our first time down this path, and we have encountered many difficulties. It was through a lot of hard work that, today, we were able to make our goals a reality. I’m delighted. This is a key event for the China Aerospace and Technology Corporation. This is the Chinese people’s first rover landing on another planet."
The Zhurong rover on board will explore an icy area of Mars known as Utopia Planitia. It was formed by the violent impact of an asteroid about four billion years ago. Past space probes have discovered large amounts of frozen water under the surface here.
An enormous layer of ice lies only a few meters below the surface. Using radar, Zhurong can precisely measure the underground ice.
The rover is named after the Chinese god of fire. Eight days after landing, when diagnostic tests are finished, it will go into action.
NASA’s two Mars robots use similar high-tech equipment to Zhurong. Even though NASA research takes years, Zhurong’s mission will be short. For three months, the rover will explore the surface of Mars, measure its magnetic field and study the properties of weathered Martian rock.
The probe will then forward the collected data back to earth, to a ground station in China.
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