China’s Mars rover is set to land on the Red Planet

Steve Jurvetson / Wikimedia Commons

On May 14, 2021, China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced that China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft would enter the last stage of its mission ‒ landing on Mars. If it succeeds, the rover, named Zhurong (‘God of Fire’), will be released to study the Red Planet. 

“With the evaluation of the flight status, Tianwen-1 probe is scheduled to perform a landing campaign targeting Utopia Planitia at the proper slot from the early morning of May 15 to May 19 Beijing time,” read the China National Space Administration (CNSA) statement.

With the aim to study and grasp more control of communication and technologies in deep space, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) launched the first independent Mars mission, called Tianwen-1 (TW-1), on July 23, 2020. The Tianwen-1 spacecraft was launched using the Long-March 5 heavy-lift rocket from Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Hainan, southern China. 

On July 26, 2020, Geng Yan, an official at the Lunar Exploration Program and Space Program Center at China National Space Administration, told Xinhua News Agency: “we only have a limited understanding of Mars. There are still many uncertainties about the environment and great risks.”

Having traveled approximately seven months, Tianwen-1 spacecraft entered Martian orbit on February 10, 2021. 

But China’s Mars mission faces several challenges. Unlike landings on the moon, where China has demonstrated success, Mars landings are more complicated because of a change in gravity and sparse atmosphere. If China succeeds, a second sample return mission to Mars is planned for 2030. 


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