China Set to be First to Land Mars Rover on First Attempt

China's orbiter arrived in Mars orbit months ago, and it's now ready to send its rover down to the surface.


NSFW    BEIJING, CHINA — China says it's ready to become the first country to land and operate a rover on Mars on its first attempt.

China's first ever Mars mission arrived in Mars orbit a few months ago, and is scheduled to release its Mars lander ten days from now. Here are the details:

The Chinese National Space Administration, or CNSA, says its Tianwen-1 orbiter will release its Zhurong Mars rover on 17 May.

The orbiter arrived in Mars orbit on 24 February, carrying with it the rover and its landing cradle.

The lander will detach from the orbiter and start to descend into Mars' thin atmosphere, protected by a heat shield that's designed to also slow the lander down with its sheer bluntness.

Once the lander slows down enough, a large parachute will open and the heat shield will fall away, exposing the landing cradle.

The cradle's landing legs would then deploy and the parachute would detach to let the lander fall freely.

The CNSA says the lander would then fire a number of rockets to slow its descent, while also keeping the lander in an upright position until it touches down.

After touchdown, the lander would deploy a ramp while the rover deploys its sensor arms and solar panels.

If the mission is successful, China would become the first country to land a rover on Mars on its first attempt.

The Zhurong rover is carrying six pieces of scientific equipment. After landing, it would survey the surroundings to study Martian soil, geomorphology and atmosphere. It would also look for signs of subsurface water ice.
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