China’s space program took a major leap today when it successfully landed the Zhurong rover on Mars, marking the country’s first landing on another planet. Teams will now prepare to roll the rover off its landing platform and onto the dusty Martian surface to begin a mission to search for evidence of water and hints of past life.
China landed a rover on Mars early Saturday, becoming the third nation after the U.S. and the Soviet Union to land on the red planet, achieving a crucial landmark in its quest to be at the forefront of space exploration.
The lander containing the Zhurong rover, named after the god of fire in ancient Chinese mythology, touched down on Mars, according to state media reports citing China’s national space agency. The target landing site had been the southern part of Mars Utopia Planitia, a large plain. It descended from the Tianwen-1 orbiter that has been circling Mars since February.
The landing and automated process lasting minutes was the most challenging aspect of China’s most ambitious space mission to date. The probe had to rely on parachutes, retrorockets and its blunt shape to decelerate and touch down on the planet, the China National Space Administration has said.
“Landing safely on Mars is a huge challenge, especially for China’s first soft landing attempt,” Long Xiao, a planetary scientist at the China University of Geosciences, said before the safe touchdown. “But it is a necessary step for Mars and deep-space exploration.”
The nation’s area program has been a source of pleasure in China as President Xi Jinping continues to preside over a period of nationalism. China has largely needed to go-it-alone in area exploration after being shut out of NASA-related initiatives since 2011 by U.S. regulation.
“This can be a crowning second for China,” stated Namrata Goswami, a co-author of the ebook “Scramble for the Skies: The Nice Energy Competitors to Management the Assets of Outer House.” “It sends a sign to the world that it has caught up with the U.S. in capability for interplanetary exploration, and that it may be an alternative choice to the U.S. for area management.