The China National Space Administration (CNSA) said its rover Zhu Rong had successfully landed in the pre-selected landing area in the Utopia Plain in southern part of Mars on Saturday after seven months of space travel and three months in orbit. Zhu Rong’s landing comes as China races to catch up with the United States in space technology.
In recent years, China has launched the world’s first quantum satellite, made a soft landing on the far side of the moon and brought lunar samples back using a purely robotic mission.
It has also started building its own space station. It was the first step in China’s planetary exploration of the solar system, with the aim of completing orbiting, landing and roving on the red planet in one mission, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The rover weighs around 240 kilograms, has six wheels and four solar panels, and is able to move 200 metres per hour. It carries six scientific instruments, including a multi-spectral camera, ground-penetrating radar and a meteorological measurer, and is expected to work around three months on the planet.
Zhu Rong is part of China’s first spacecraft for Mars, Tianwen-1, which was launched in July 2020 with three parts – orbiter, lander and rover. Tianwen-1 reached Mars and started orbiting in February 2021. It is one of three international Mars missions that was launched in the middle of 2020, along with NASA’s Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars in February and the United Arab Emirates’ Hope Probe, which entered Mars orbit, also in February just to study the planet from orbit. According to experts, landing of Zhu Rong was different from Nasa’s Perseverance, which did not have an orbiter and relied on a series of choreographed steps, including parachutes, rockets and a sky crane to land.