China on Saturday succeeded in landing its small remote-controlled robot “Zorong” on the surface of Mars, for the first time for the Asian country, according to the CCTV public television station.
Landing on the Red Planet is particularly complex, and several European, Soviet and American missions have failed in the past.
China actually tried to ship a probe to Mars in 2011 during a joint mission with Russia. But the attempt collapsed, and Beijing then decided to continue the adventure alone.
Thus, at the end of July 2020, the Chinese launched their unmanned mission “Tianwen-1” from Earth, named after the probe that was sent into space.
This consists of three components: an orbiter (orbiting the star), a lander (which has landed on the surface of Mars) and on board a remotely controlled robot, “Zhurong”.
CCTV said that “the landing craft, Tianwen-1, successfully landed in the pre-determined area” on Mars using the robot “Zorong”, adding that a “signal” was received on Earth.
The landing took place in a region of the Red Planet called “Utopia Planitia”, which is a vast plain located in the northern hemisphere of Mars.
This is their first independent attempt by the Chinese. With their ambition, they hope to do everything the Americans have accomplished on several Mars missions since the 1960s.
In February, China had already successfully placed the “Tianwen-1” probe into Mars orbit and took pictures of the red planet.
Early on Saturday, this time it managed to land on Mars, which would then allow the remote-controlled robot “Zhurong” to exit.
Conducting these three operations during an inaugural mission to Mars is the first of its kind in the world.
The “Zorong” weighs more than 200 kilograms, is equipped with four solar panels to provide it with energy, and is supposed to work for three months.
It is also equipped with cameras, radar and lasers, which will allow it in particular to study its environment and analyze the composition of Mars rocks.
The name “Zhurong” was chosen after an online survey and refers to the god of fire in Chinese mythology. The symbolism is justified by the Chinese name for Mars: “Huxing”, literally “planet of fire.”