China made history on Wednesday, February 10, when it became just the sixth space administration to reach Mars. The feat had only been achieved by the USA, the European Space Agency, India, and the Soviet Union, before China got to Mars, while the UAE’s Hope mission reached the orbit of Mars just one day earlier.
Since then, Tianwen-1 has been in orbit around the Red Planet, observing Mars in a bid to better understand the planet.
Now, the China National Space Agency (CNSA) is preparing to deploy its Mars-Orbiting Subsurface Exploration Radar instrument.
As with most governmental issues coming out of China, details of when it will be deployed are scant, but an official has said it will be in mid-May.
The machine will analyse the planet’s geology and morphology – how the planet’s surface has changed throughout its history.
The CNSA has dubbed the ambitious rover as Zhurong – which means “fire god”.
Deep Bandivadekar, a PhD candidate at the University of Strathclyde who has been following the mission intently, detailed what to expect.
He wrote for The Conversation: “However, based on an early overview of the mission by some Chinese researchers, we know the landing sequence the spacecraft will attempt to follow.
“Zhurong – protected by an aeroshell (a protective shell surrounding the spacecraft which includes the heat shield) – will enter the atmosphere at a speed of 4 km/s.
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“Just before touchdown, an automated obstacle avoidance sequence will begin for soft landing.
“If the mission is successful, China will be the first country to land a rover on Mars in its first attempt.
“A few days after that, Zhurong will be ready to explore the surface.”