Zhurong on Mars T-Shirt
A Major Achievement for China’s Space Program
The Zhurong rover’s successful landing on Mars on May 14, 2021, was a significant milestone for China’s space program, as it marked the country’s first landing on another planet. As part of its mission, the rover rolled off its landing platform and began exploring the dusty Martian surface in search of evidence of water and signs of past life.
This touchdown makes China the second country in history to deposit a rover on the surface of Mars, following months of orbiting the red planet. The Tianwen-1 spacecraft eventually released the 529-pound Zhurong rover for a safe landing in Utopia Planitia, a vast plain believed to have once been covered by an ancient Martian ocean.
Despite the challenges of atmospheric entry and decelerating from supersonic speeds with a parachute, the Zhurong rover survived a perilous descent to the surface, ultimately using retrorockets to safely touch down.
Named after an ancient Chinese fire god, the Zhurong rover is comparable in size to NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers, which landed on Mars in 2004 and provided valuable insights into the planet’s surface conditions. With the potential to make significant discoveries related to water and past habitability on Mars, China’s rover could pave the way for future human missions to the planet.
According to Long Xiao, a planetary scientist at the China University of Geosciences, “Landing safely on Mars is a huge challenge, especially for China’s first soft landing attempt. But it is a necessary step for Mars and deep-space exploration.”
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