China Will Land a Rover on Mars: Time and Streaming

The United States now has company on the surface of Mars.

A Chinese spacecraft descended through the thin Martian atmosphere and landed safely on a large plain on Saturday morning, state media reported, accomplishing a feat that only two other nations have before.

The landing follows China’s launch last month of the core module of a new orbiting space station and a successful mission in December that collected nearly four pounds of rocks and soil from the moon and brought them back to Earth. Next month, the country’s space program plans to send three astronauts back to space, inaugurating what could become a regular Chinese presence in Earth’s orbit.

Just by arriving at Mars and orbiting the planet in February, China’s space program confirmed its place among the top tier of agencies exploring the solar system. Now that it has executed a landing — with a deployment of a rover still to come — it has established itself as a principal contender in what some view as a new era of space competition.

The Global Times, a newspaper controlled by the Communist Party, said that the mission had “spectacularly conquered a new major milestone” with its landing.

The mission consists of an orbiter, a lander and a rover.

Spacecraft descend toward Mars at a high speed, and the thin atmosphere does not do enough to slow the trip to the ground. The shock waves of air compressed by the speeding capsule generate extreme heat that must be absorbed or dissipated. A number of Soviet, NASA and European missions have crashed.

Only NASA has reached the surface of Mars intact more than once. The landings of its largest rovers, Curiosity and Perseverance, have relied on parachutes to slow the spacecraft, shields to dissipate the heat from atmospheric friction and intricate systems called sky cranes. These were basically rocket-powered jetpacks carrying the rovers beneath them and lowering them to the surface on cables before flying safely away from the landing zone.

For the Tianwen mission, a cone-shaped entry capsule carried the lander and rover through the atmosphere. A heat shield protected the spacecraft from superheated gases as it sped through the top of the atmosphere. Then the friction of the thin Martian air helped it slow down — by about 90 percent, Tan Zhiyun, a designer at the China Academy of Space Technology, told The Global Times.

At a lower altitude, the heat shield was jettisoned. At the next step the parachute and the top nose-shaped piece were discarded. Firing a rocket engine, the four-legged lander, similar in design to the Chang’e-3 and Chang’e-4 lunar landers, then hovered briefly as it searched for a safe spot and descended toward a safe powered landing.

China is on the far side of the moon with a robotic rover and recently put a large piece of its next, long-term space station in Earth orbit. But the country’s space program has many other goals, too. Read more about China’s space exploration plans here:

In recent weeks, the surface of Mars has seen its first flights by Ingenuity, an experimental helicopter built by NASA. The small rotorcraft was meant to demonstrate that it was possible for something to fly like a helicopter or airplane in the thin Martian atmosphere.

Claire Fu contributed research.

Author: desi123

Desi123.com is an online news portal that aims to provide the latest trendy news for Asians living in Asia and around the World.

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