China says Martian rover Zhurong takes first drive on surface of Red Planet

A remote-controlled Chinese motorised rover drove down the ramp of its touchdown capsule on Saturday and onto the surface of Mars, making China the first nation to orbit, land and deploy a land car on its inaugural mission to the Red Planet.

Zhurong, named after a legendary Chinese god of fireplace, drove right down to the surface of Mars at 10:40 a.m. Beijing time (0240 GMT), in accordance with the rover’s official Chinese social media account.

China this month joined the United States as the one nations to deploy land automobiles on Mars. The former Soviet Union landed a craft in 1971, but it surely misplaced communication seconds later.

The 240-kg (530-pound) Zhurong, which has six scientific devices together with a high-resolution topography digital camera, will examine the planet’s surface soil and ambiance.

Powered by photo voltaic power, Zhurong can even search for indicators of historic life, together with any subsurface water and ice, utilizing a ground-penetrating radar throughout its 90-day exploration of the Martian surface.

Zhurong will transfer and cease in gradual intervals, with every interval estimated to be simply 10 metres (33 ft) over three days, in accordance with the official China Space News.

“The slow progress of the rover was due to the limited understanding of the Martian environment, so a relatively conservative working mode was specially designed,” Jia Yang, an engineer concerned within the mission, advised China Space News.

Jia stated he wouldn’t rule out a quicker tempo within the later stage of the rover’s mission, relying on its operational state on the time.

Jia stated the rover was designed to be extremely autonomous as a result of the gap to Mars, at 320 million km (200 million miles), means a sign takes 40 minutes to journey each methods, posing a hurdle for real-time management of the rover.

Martian temperatures are additionally an issue, he stated: a nighttime drop to minus 130 levels Celsius (minus 200 levels Fahrenheit) freezes carbon dioxide, masking the uneven floor with a layer of dry ice – a terrain danger for the rover.

Zhurong has an automatic suspension system that may raise and decrease its chassis by 60 centimetres (2 ft), the one rover with such a functionality, in accordance with China Space News.

The rover is roofed by nano-aerogel plates to guard its physique from the chilly.

Dust storms may additionally have an effect on the rover’s potential to generate energy by way of its photo voltaic panels, Jia stated. To overcome this, the panel surface is made with a cloth that can’t be simply stained by mud and might simply shake mud off by vibration, he stated.

ANCIENT OCEAN

China’s uncrewed Tianwen-1 spacecraft blasted off from the southern Chinese island of Hainan in July final 12 months. After greater than six months in transit, Tianwen-1 reached the Red Planet in February the place it had been in orbit since.

On May 15, the touchdown capsule carrying the rover separated from Tianwen-1 and touched down on an enormous plain referred to as Utopia Planitia, believed to be the positioning of an historic ocean.

The first photos taken by the rover had been launched by the Chinese area company on Wednesday.

The coordinates of the touchdown web site are 109.9 levels east and 25.1 levels north, China Space News stated.

Tianwen-1 was one of three probes that reached Mars in February.

U.S. rover Perseverance touched down on Feb. 18 in an enormous melancholy referred to as Jezero Crater, greater than 2,000 km (1,240 miles) from Utopia Planitia.

Hope – the third spacecraft to reach in February – will not be designed to land. Launched by the United Arab Emirates, it’s orbiting above Mars, gathering information on its climate and ambiance.

Perseverance and Zhurong are amongst three robotic rovers working on Mars. The third is NASA’s Curiosity, which landed in 2012.

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