A Chinese owned spacecraft has landed on Mars, making China the second country to send a rover to the surface of the Red Planet.
The Spacecraft which has been in orbit since February, touched down on Utopia Planitia, a large plain in the northern hemisphere of Mars on Saturday 15th May at about 7 a.m. local time.
The lander was carrying the Zhurong rover, which is named after an ancient Chinese god of fire.
The Mars rover could provide a PR win for President Xi Jinping’s government following the crash of debris from a Chinese rocket in early May.
“The Zhurong Mars rover is hoped to ignite the spark of China’s interplanetary exploration and guide humanity deep into the vast yet unknown outer space,” CNSA said last month.
“It’s the most difficult place in the solar system to land,” said Emily Lakdawalla, author of “The Design and Engineering of Curiosity,” about the NASA rover that landed in 2012. China’s success on its first attempt “tells you that they are one of the most capable space agencies,” she said.
Mars unlike the moon has an atmosphere, which makes it difficult to use rockets to decrease approaching speed. The atmosphere in Mars is much thinner than the Earth, which makes it harder to rely on parachutes.
ExoMars Schiaparelli spacecraft crashed in 2016 after software error miss calculated its estimated altitude during an attempted landing. The European Space Agency tried to land on Mars in 2003, when its Beagle 2 probe crashed. The USSR made several attempts in the 1970s and its Mars 3 probe reached the surface in 1971 but only transmitted back to Earth for less than a minute before going silent.
Now that the Chinese rover has reached the surface, Zhurong will begin exploring. It will need to work fast: The rover can last three Martian months, about 92 days Earth Time.