China has succeeded: it has put a robotic rover on the plains of Mars, with an absolute precision landing that few have achieved until now.
A Chinese rover landed today on the vast plain known as Utopia Planitia on Mars, making China the second country to do so in human history, after the United States, reported the National Space Administration of the Asian country (CNSA ). The Soviet Union and the United Kingdom also reached Mars, but their teams failed and they were unable to initiate the mission.
The lander and the Chinese rover separated from the Chinese Tianwen-1 spacecraft, which had been orbiting Mars since last February, at 0400 local time (20.00 GMT on Friday) and descended towards the red planet.
Chinese rover on Mars
After a descent of about three hours, the capsule containing the module and the rover entered the atmosphere of Mars at an altitude of 125 kilometers, initiating the riskiest phase of the mission.
When the capsule’s speed was then reduced from 4.8 kilometers per second to 460 meters per second, a large parachute with an area of about 200 square meters was deployed to continue to slow down to 100 meters per second.
The parachute and outer shell of the capsule were then detached, while the lander’s retro rocket was activated to further slow down to near zero.
About 100 meters from the Martian surface, the artifact hovered for a moment to identify obstacles and measure the slope of the surface, after which it selected a relatively flat area and slowly descended, landing successfully on it with its four shock-absorbing legs.
No control from Earth
The capsule’s entry into the atmosphere of Mars, which lasted about nine minutes, was extremely complicated, without control from the ground and had to be carried out by the spacecraft autonomously, explained Gen Yan, a spokesman for the CNSA.
“Each step had only one chance and the actions were closely related. If there had been a mistake, the landing would have failed,” he said.
Currently, humanity’s success rate in landing is below 50 percent and most of the failed attempts occur during descent.
“An extremely accurate operation involving several technologies, including the aerodynamic design of the capsule shape, parachute and engine was required to achieve a smooth landing,” said Sun Zezhou, chief designer of the mission.
The Tianwen-1 probe successfully entered the orbit of Mars on February 10, after a six and a half month trip from the south of the Asian giant.
With today’s landing, China becomes the first country to travel to Mars, enter its orbit and explore it in a single mission, at a cost of about 8,000 million dollars (6,596 million dollars).
Tianwen-1, whose Mandarin name means “heavenly questions” in reference to a classic Chinese poem, was launched on July 23, 2020 from the Wenchang space center on the southern island of Hainan.
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