China Lands on Mars in Historic Achievement —10 Things You Need to Know

Unfortunately, the historic landing was not broadcast in real-time by the Chinese media.

The landing platform of the Chinese interplanetary station “Tianwen-1” successfully landed with the rover “Zhurong” in the Utopia plain on Mars. Thus, China became the second country in the world to deliver an automatic machine to the Red Planet successfully without a major failure shortly after the descent.


10 Things you need to know about China’s Historical Mars Mission

1. Tianwen-1 was China’s first mission to Mars, launched last summer when an orbital probe and a landing platform with a rover went into space.

2. The tasks of the spacecraft include studying the composition and structure of the surface of Mars and the subsurface layer, ionosphere, climate, as well as searching for deposits of water ice.

3. Tianwen-1 entered orbit around Mars in February of this year, and soon the orbital probe began its scientific program.

4. This is the tenth successful landing on the Red Planet, but the first by a country other than the United States. In addition to today’s Chinese and nine American landings, in 1971 the Soviet Mars 3 lander also reached the surface of the Red Planet, but did not remain operational – after a few seconds of operation, the signal was interrupted forever.

Previous missions to the Red Planet. You can see that China's Mars mission was sent to a location that has already been studied by several NASA missions in the past. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Previous missions to the Red Planet. You can see that China’s Mars mission was sent to a location that has already been studied by several NASA missions in the past. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

5. Unfortunately, the historic landing was not broadcast in real-time by the Chinese media. There were not even succinct messages about the state of the mission earlier in the day.

6. What’s more, it took an hour and a half after the official landing before media outlets like Xinhua officially announced the success – to the disappointment of space enthusiasts. When you compare it to the transparency of ESA and NASA, for example, it simply does not look serious.

7. Reportedly, the entire landing operation took eight minutes. During this time, at first, the capsule with the platform, which had previously separated from the orbital probe, performed aerodynamic braking in the atmosphere, then released a parachute, fired off the front heat shield, started the braking system engines, dropped the external heat shield, and then hovered on an altitude of about 70 meters from Mars, before making a soft landing using lidar and cameras.

Illustration showing the landing process performed by China's Mars spacecraft. Credit: CNSA
Illustration showing the landing process performed by China’s Mars spacecraft. Credit: CNSA

8. Now that the descent is over, I hope the Chinese will more open. I remind readers that the landing of the Moon on “Chang’e 5” in December was also not broadcast in real-time, but a few hours later the Chinese space agency published detailed videos and photos. We sure hope that we will be receiving regular updates from China’s Mars mission just like we do from NASA.

9. Tianwen-1’s rover recently received the name Zhurong in honor of the god of fire. It has a mass of 240 kg and is equipped with a number of scientific instruments: two optical and one multispectral camera and radars, magnetometers, weather station, and soil spectral analyzer including a laser.

10. The spacecraft will be powered by four solar panels, and it will communicate with the Earth through an orbital probe. The rover’s estimated operating time is 90 Martian days although we can expect it to be extended if no problems occur.


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Sources:

Myers, S., & Chang, K. (2021, May 14). China’s Mars rover mission lands on the red planet.
O’Callaghan, J. (2021, May 14). China lands TIANWEN-1 rover on Mars in a major first for the country.
Woo, R. (2021, May 15). China completes historic Mars spacecraft landing.
Xinhua. (n.d.). China’s probe lands on Mars.

Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. My experience as a freelance writer began in 2018 but I have been part of the Curiosmos family since mid-2020. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.
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