05/17/2021 at 8:00 AM CEST
China has become the second country in the world to successfully land a spacecraft on Mars, confirming that it has the technological capacity to replicate NASA’s adventures: it will also send humans to the Moon and will have its own space station and telescope. like Hubble.
This weekend he placed Zhurong, a self-made space exploration vehicle (rover), designed to move on the surface of another planet, on the Utopia Plain of Mars.
Utopia Planitia is an extensive plain located in the northern hemisphere of the red planet, where Viking 2, one of the two space probes for exploration of Mars belonging to NASA’s Viking program, had landed in 1976.
Zhurong is part of the Tianwen-1 probe, developed by China to bring an orbiter, a lander and a rover to the planet Mars, objectives that it has already accomplished.
The mission was launched on July 23, 2020 from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center, with a Long March (5) series rocket that entered Martian orbit on February 10, 2021.
Three months later, the Tianwen-1 probe sent Zhurong to the Martian surface, thus joining the other NASA spacecraft already surveying the planet.
Related Topic: A Fleet of Terrestrial Spaceships Invades Mars
Human landing on Mars
Human landing on MarsThe launch of the Tianwen-1 probe is part of the human landing on Mars, which includes the deployment of NASA’s Perseverance rover, as well as the Hope orbiter sent by the United Arab Emirates to study the Martian atmosphere and climate.
These three missions reached Mars in February: NASA’s rover descended immediately, while Tianwen-1 remained in Martian orbit to explore the landing site before dispatching Zhurong.
Zhurong has begun the development of a series of experiments that will study the topography, geology and atmosphere of Mars, in order to better understand the distribution of ice in the region and provide information on the viability of human colonies on the red planet.
Among Zhurong’s scientific instruments is a radar that could detect pockets of water below the surface, where some form of life could persist, notes The Planetary Society.
Zhurong, which is powered by solar energy, has operational capacity for 90 Martian days, each lasting 1 day and 37 minutes longer than on Earth, and can advance its exploration at 200 meters per hour, although the Tianwen-1 probe It will continue to collect data from Mars for years to come.
NASA’s Perseverance rover will spend one Martian year (about 687 Earth days) exploring the red planet and reaches a maximum speed of 0.016093 kilometers per hour.
China plans to send a second lander to Mars in 2028 and bring Martian soil samples to Earth, something that both NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) plan to achieve in 2031 as well. It is not yet known who will get those samples. samples for the first time to Earth, but all intend to send manned spacecraft to Mars later.
Returning Martian samples to Earth is one of the top priorities of the scientific community. Despite the impressive advances made in the placement of miniature scientific instruments in spacecraft, only terrestrial technology can date samples with absolute precision, reproduce scientific results and verify the presence or absence of life in a sample. Society.
And beyondChina has already announced that it plans to become a great space power, with specific programs not only for Mars, but also for the Moon and its own International Space Station.
The plan for the Moon is to orbit, land, and collect and return samples to Earth, followed by a manned landing.
The orbit was achieved in 2007, the moon landing in 2013 and last December brought to Earth the first rocks from the Moon obtained after more than 40 years.
The manned mission is scheduled for 2024 and last March it was announced that China will work with Russia on the construction of an orbital lunar research station.
China is also building its own space station, which will be completed next year, when it will join the International Space Station (ISS).
Its construction is not without its incidents: last month, the rocket that carried the Central Cabin Module to the space station lost its propellant and fell uncontrollably over the Indian Ocean.
The Chinese Space Station (CSS) has less than a quarter of the mass of the ISS, built cooperatively by 15 nations, although it will carry out important research on space physiology, life sciences, fluid physics, materials science, astronomy and observation. from the earth.
It will use the world’s most accurate clocks and the coldest atoms to support fundamental research in general relativity and quantum physics, Scientific American notes.
Chinese HubbleFinally, China plans to launch a Hubble-sized telescope, called the Xuntian, in 2024 that will orbit the Earth at 593 kilometers above sea level.
Xuntian will be part of the Chinese orbital station and will have 300 times the field of view of Hubble. You will investigate cosmology, the large-scale structure of matter in the universe, and galaxy and stellar science, as well as dark matter and energy.
The New York Times highlights the significance of China’s landing on Mars: “The Chinese mission to Mars may seem less sexy than NASA’s last, as it essentially repeats feats that the Americans accomplished decades ago, but represents another milestone in ambition. China from becoming a great space power. “
Most importantly, this is a technology demonstration for a much more ambitious future project that includes sending orbiters to Venus and Jupiter.
Top photo: launch on July 23, 2020 of the Chinese rocket that carries the Tianwen-1 probe to Mars. Xinhua Agency.