After months of observing its planned landing spot, China has landed its Zhurong rover on Mars, making it the second country to successfully deploy, land, and operate a machine on the Red Planet. The event involved the Tianwen-1 probe launched from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in southern China last summer, as well as the Zhurong rover carried by the spacecraft.
The achievement was announced by Chinese state media CGTN on May 14. The process has been a long one for China’s space agency; the launch took place in July 2020, with the orbiter arriving at Mars back in February. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) then spent a couple of months orbiting the Red Planet, snapping images and gathering data.
The spacecraft was made of three core aspects: the orbiter, the lander, and the rover. The orbiter remains in orbit around Mars, while the lander and rover separated and began its descent to the Red Planet on May 14. The entire descent and landing process lasted around seven minutes and was confirmed a while later.
According to the CNSA, the Zhurong rover has an expected lifespan of three months (90 Martian days), though it is possible the machine will outlive expectations and continue to operate beyond this timeframe. During its days on Mars, Zhurong will be tasked with studying the planet’s soil, surface water ice and material composition, geological structure, and “physical field and internal structure.”
Zhurong features a suite of instruments for studying Mars, including two cameras, a magnetometer probe, wind and sound probe, and air temperature and pressure probe. Other instruments tasked with exploring the Utopia Planitia, the region where Zhurong landed, include a multispectral camera, surface composition detector, and ground-penetrating radar.