Beijing: China on Saturday successfully landed a spacecraft on Mars, state media announced quoting China National Space Administration (CNSA).
The rover — Tianwen-1 — touched down at its pre-selected landing area in the southern part of Utopia Planitia, a vast plain on the northern hemisphere of Mars, at 7:18 a.m. (Beijing Time), the CNSA announced.
It took ground controllers more than an hour to establish the success of the pre-programmed landing. They had to wait for the rover to autonomously unfold its solar panels and antenna to send the signals after landing, and there was a time delay of more than 17 minutes due to the 320-million-km distance between Earth and Mars.
The vehicle used a combination of a protective capsule, a parachute and a rocket platform to make the descent. The successful touchdown is a remarkable achievement, given the difficult nature of the task.
According to Chinese media, CNSA Head Zhang Kejian said the Mars exploration mission has been a total success.
Tianwen 1, the country’s first independent Mars mission, was launched by a Long March 5 heavy-lift carrier rocket on July 23 from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province, kicking off the nation’s planetary exploration program.
The 5-metric ton probe, which consists of two major parts – the orbiter and the landing capsule- has flown for 215 days and about 475 million km on its journey to Mars. The average flight speed was about 100,000 km per hour.
Tianwen 1 is the world’s 46th Mars exploration mission since October 1960, when the former Soviet Union launched the first Mars-bound spacecraft. Only 18 of those missions were successful.
Meanwhile, NASA Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen congratulated the CNSA team.
“Congratulations to CNSA’s #Tianwen1 team for the successful landing of China’s first Mars exploration rover, #Zhurong! Together with the global science community, I look forward to the important contributions this mission will make to humanity’s understanding of the Red Planet,” Mr Zurbuchen tweeted.