‘God of Fire’ lands on Red Planet

En route: The Tianwen-1 probe on its way to Mars. — AP

BEIJING: The lander carrying China’s first Mars rover has touched down on the Red Planet, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) confirmed.

Tianwen-1 probe’s successful landing marks China’s first landing on an extraterrestrial planet and makes it the second country, after the United States, to do so.

“The Mars exploration mission has been a total success, ” Zhang Kejian, head of the CNSA, announced at the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre yesterday.

After the success was confirmed, the control centre in Beijing was filled with cheer and applause.

“It’s another important milestone for China, ” he said.

The Tianwen-1 probe touched down at its landing area in Utopia Planitia on Mars, at 7.18am Beijing time yesterday, the CNSA announced.It took ground controllers more than an hour to establish the success of the pre-programmed landing. They had to wait for the rover to autonomously unfold its solar panels and antenna to send the signals after landing, and there was a time delay of more than 17 minutes due to the 320-million-km distance between Earth and Mars.

Tianwen-1, consisting of an orbiter, a lander and a rover, was launched from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Hainan province on July 23, last year.

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.

China’s first Mars rover is named Zhurong after the god of fire in ancient Chinese mythology.

The spacecraft entered the Mars orbit in February after a journey of nearly seven months through space, and spent more than two months surveying potential landing sites.

Zhurong will take a further seven to eight days to detect the surrounding environment and conduct self checks before moving down from the lander to the Martian surface, according to Geng Yan, an official at the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Centre of the CNSA.

The six-wheeled solar-powered rover, resembling a blue butterfly with a mass of 240kg, has an expected lifespan of at least 90 Martian days (about three months on Earth).

China has constructed Asia’s largest steerable radio telescope with a 70m diameter antenna at Wuqing District in northern China’s Tianjin to receive data from the Mars exploration mission. — Xinhua

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