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Home Lao

China succeeds in first Mars landing

BEIJING (Xinhua) -- A Chinese spacecraft streaked down through the Martian sky on Saturday, becoming the country’s first probe to land on a planet other than Earth.
The lander, carrying a Mars rover, touched down at its pre-selected landing area in the southern part of Utopia Planitia, a vast plain on the northern hemisphere of Mars, at 7:18 am, the China National Space Administration (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.

The graphic simulated image taken on May 15, 2021 shows China’s probe landing on Mars. --Photo Jin Liwang

“The Mars landing of the Tianwen-1 mission has been a total success,” Zhang Kejian, head of the CNSA, announced at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center.
A large screen in the center showed that the probe landed on the Martian surface at 25.1 degrees north latitude and 109.9 degrees east longitude.
After the success was confirmed, space engineers and scientists at the control center hugged each other amid cheers and applause.
Zhang Rongqiao, chief designer of China’s first Mars exploration mission, said that the landing had been a textbook case of accuracy. “Today’s success is hard-won,” he noted.
More than 40 Mars missions have been launched since the 1960s, but only about half have succeeded. The success rate for landing is even lower.
The landing marks an important step in China’s interstellar exploration and a leap from the exploration of the Earth-Moon system to interplanetary exploration, said Chinese President Xi Jinping in a congratulatory message.
“The landing left a Chinese mark on Mars for the first time. It is another landmark progress in China’s space industry development,” said Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission.
It is the first time in the world that orbiting and landing on Mars is completed in one launch mission, and China has come to the forefront of Mars exploration in the world, said Ye Peijian, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).
Tianwen-1, consisting of an orbiter, a lander and a rover, was launched from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on the coast of southern China’s island province of Hainan on July 23, 2020. 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.
The name Tianwen, meaning Questions to Heaven, comes from a poem written by the ancient Chinese poet Qu Yuan (circa 340-278 BC). China’s first Mars rover is named Zhurong after the god of fire in ancient Chinese mythology, which echoes with the Chinese name of the red planet: Huoxing (the planet of fire).
The spacecraft entered the Mars orbit in February after a journey of nearly seven months through space, and spent about three months surveying potential landing sites.
In the early hours of Saturday, the spacecraft began to descend from its parking orbit, and the entry capsule enclosing the lander and the rover separated from the orbiter at about 4 am.
After flying for approximately three hours, the entry capsule hurtled toward the red planet and entered the Mars atmosphere at an altitude of 125 km, initiating the riskiest phase of the whole mission.
First, the specially designed aerodynamic shape of the entry capsule decelerated with the friction of the Martian atmosphere. When the velocity of the spacecraft was lowered from 4.8 km per second to about 460 metres per second, a huge parachute covering an area of about 200 square meters was unfurled to continue reducing the velocity to less than 100 metres per second.
The parachute and the outer shield of the spacecraft were then jettisoned, exposing the lander and rover, and the retrorocket on the lander was fired to further slow the speed of the craft to almost zero.
At about 100 metres above the Martian surface, the craft hovered to identify obstacles and measured the slopes of the surface. Avoiding the obstacles, it selected a relatively flat area and descended slowly, touching down safely with its four buffer legs.
The craft’s plummet through the Martian atmosphere, lasting about nine minutes, was extremely complicated with no ground control, and had to be performed by the spacecraft autonomously, said Geng Yan, an official at the Lunar Exploration and Space Programme Centre of the CNSA.
“Each step had only one chance, and the actions were closely linked. If there had been any flaw, the landing would have failed,” said Geng.
After separating from the entry capsule, the orbiter, with a designed lifespan of one Martian year (about 687 days on Earth), was lifted to return to its parking orbit and helped relay communications between the landing vehicle and Earth.




(Latest Update May 13, 2021)


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