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Chinese spacecraft successfully landing on Mars

Published: 17th May, 2021

Chinese spacecraft, Tianwen-1, landed successfully on the surface of Mars which makes China the second space-faring nation after the U.S. to land on the Red Planet.

Context

Chinese spacecraft, Tianwen-1, landed successfully on the surface of Mars which makes China the second space-faring nation after the U.S. to land on the Red Planet.

About

Key highlights of the Tianwen-1 Spacecraft

  • Tianwen-1 or "Questions to Heaven", is China's first independent mission to Mars.
    • Tianwen-1, or "Questions to Heaven", named after a Chinese poem written two millennia ago.
  • It is a five-tonne spacecraft that blasted off from the southern Chinese island of Hainan.
  • It was launched by the powerful Long March 5 rocket.
  • It is the first Chinese spacecraft which landed on Mars.
  • It landed on a site on the Southern Utopia Plain.
  • The landing process consisted of "nine minutes of terror" as the module decelerates and then slowly descends.

Minutes of terror

  • In Mars missions, the 'minutes of terror' is referred to the entry, descent and landing (EDL) phase of the rover.
  • It is known as the events take place much quicker than the radio signals can reach Earth from Mars for communication. 
  • During the minutes of terror the engineers overlooking the event won't be able to guide or direct the Perseverance landing as it takes a while to establish or send any communication from Earth to Mars. 
  • Hence, the rover will have to perform a landing itself, with no human guidance involved. 
  • In the case of NASA’s Perseverance, it was ‘Seven minutes of terror’ and in Chinese Tianwen-1 Spacecraft, It was Nine minutes of terror.
  • It has a solar-powered rover, which is named as Zhurong.
    • It was named after a mythical Chinese god of fire, Zhuronghas.
    • It comprises six scientific instruments including a high-resolution opography camera.
  • Study: The rover will survey the landing site before its departure from the platform to conduct inspections.
    • The rover will study the planet's surface soil and atmosphere.
    • Zhurong will look for signs of ancient life, any sub-surface water and ice.

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