The Perseverance rover which is trundling on the surface of Mars is likely going to get a new neighbour soon as China attempts to land its maiden rover on the Red Planet on Friday. The Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) will attempt to land the Zhurong rover, part of the Tianwen-1 spacecraft, which has been orbiting Mars since February of this year.
If China successfully lands its spacecraft on the surface, it will become only the third country to land a rover on another planet after the United States and Russia.
China aims to achieve orbiting, landing, and roving on the Red Planet in a single mission. The country has already successfully entered into the orbit of Mars when it reached the Red Planet in February.
According to Global Times, China’s Mars orbiter is carrying seven scientific payloads, while the rover is equipped with six instruments to explore the Red Planet.
So far, no country except the US has succeeded in landing rovers on the surface, China will look to change this fact (Russia landed its rover on Venus).
Seven minutes of terror
As CNSA enters the Martian atmosphere, Chinese scientists sitting at the administration’s headquarters will experience the ‘seven minutes of terror’, a term used to refer to the loss of communication with the machine hurtling down the surface. It is only after seven minutes — the machine may have either landed or crashed — confirmation of the rover’s status reaches Earth due to the massive distance between the two planets.
As the lander hits the Martian atmosphere the rover will be tucked under a heat shield, protecting it from the immense heat generated due to friction in Mars’s upper atmosphere. A parachute will be deployed seconds after the heat shield is ejected midway, to slow down the space probe. Working on similar equipment as the sky crane that lowered Perseverance onto the surface, the Chinese lander will put the rover on the ground. According to CNSA, if the landing is successful, a ramp will be deployed on the lander to slowly roll out the rover onto the surface.
The rover which, will land in the Utopia Planitia basin is expected to be in operation for 90 Martian days. It will observe the surface soil characteristics and analyse the surface material composition with reference to the planet’s climate and environment.
The Utopia Planitia basin is the same where Nasa’s Viking 2 lander touched down in 1976.
Zhurong named after Chinese god of fire
CNSA, which is one of the most tight-lipped space agencies, recently released the name of the rover to be Zhurong. “Zhurong is the god of fire in ancient Chinese mythology, which echoes with the Chinese name of the red planet, Huoxing (meaning the planet of fire). Fire brought warmth and brightness to the ancestors of humankind, and fire lit up human civilization,” it said in a statement.
“The name is another example of Chinese aerospace workers’ scientific romance as they have named spacecraft, including Tianwen, Chang’e, and Beidou, after Chinese traditional culture, which also shows the Chinese people’s spirit of exploration and cultural confidence,” Wu Yanhua, deputy director of the CNSA said.
China launched its Mars probe, Tianwen-1, on July 23, 2020. The spacecraft, consisting of an orbiter, a lander, and a rover, entered the parking orbit of Mars on February 24, 2021. Beijing used its homegrown Long March-5 rocket, a heavy-lift booster to launch the maiden Mars mission.
Meanwhile, to facilitate smooth communication with the Mars mission, China also built a 70-meter reflector antenna in Wuqing District, Tianjin, Global Times reported. The antenna that started functioning in October 2020 is high-performance equipment that stretches 72 meters in height and weighs 2,700 tons, composed of 1,328 high-precision panels.
Courtesy – Indiatoday