China completes historic Mars spacecraft landing

An uncrewed Chinese spacecraft successfully landed on the surface of Mars on Saturday, state news agency Xinhua reported, making China the second space-faring nation after the United States to land on the red planet.

The Tianwen-1 spacecraft landed on a site on a vast plain known as Utopia Planitia, “leaving a Chinese footprint on Mars for the first time,” Xinhua said.

Chinese president Xi Jinping issued a message of congratulations to all the people involved in the mission.

“You were brave enough for the challenge, pursued excellence and placed our country in the advanced ranks of planetary exploration,” he said. “Your outstanding achievement will forever be etched in the memories of the motherland and the people.”

The craft left its parked orbit at about 6pm on Friday, Irish time. The landing module separated from the orbiter three hours later and entered the Martian atmosphere, the official China Space News said.

It said the landing process consisted of “nine minutes of terror” as the module decelerates and then slowly descends.

The official landing time was 18 minutes past midnight, Irish time, Xinhua said, citing the China National Space Administration. The rover took more than 17 minutes to unfold its solar panels and antenna and send signals to ground controllers more than 320 million kilometres away.

The rover, named Zhurong, will now survey the landing site before departing from its platform to conduct inspections. Named after a mythical Chinese god of fire, Zhurong has six scientific instruments including a high-resolution topography camera.

It will study the planet’s surface soil and atmosphere. Zhurong will also look for signs of ancient life, including any sub-surface water and ice, using a ground-penetrating radar.

First independent mission

Tianwen-1 or “Questions to Heaven”, after a Chinese poem written two millennia ago, is China’s first independent mission to Mars. A probe co-launched with Russia in 2011 failed to leave the Earth’s orbit.

The five-tonne spacecraft blasted off from the southern Chinese island of Hainan in July last year, launched by the powerful Long March 5 rocket.

After more than six months in transit, Tianwen-1 reached the red planet in February where it had been in orbit since.

If Zhurong is successfully deployed, China would be the first country to orbit, land and release a rover in its maiden mission to Mars.

Tianwen-1 was one of three that reached Mars in February, with US rover Perseverance successfully touching down on February 18th in a huge depression called Jezero Crater, more than 2,000km away from Utopia Planitia.

Hope – the third spacecraft that arrived at Mars in February this year – is not designed to make a landing. Launched by the United Arab Emirates, it is currently orbiting above Mars gathering data on its weather and atmosphere.

The first successful landing ever was made by Nasa’s Viking 1 in July 1976 and then by Viking 2 in September that year. A Mars probe launched by the former Soviet Union landed in December 1971, but communication was lost seconds after landing.

China is pursuing an ambitious space programme. It is testing reusable spacecraft and is also planning to establish manned lunar research station.

In a commentary published on Saturday, Xinhua said China was “not looking to compete for leadership in space” but was committed to “unveiling the secrets of the universe and contributing to humanity’s peaceful use of space.” – Reuters

The Irish Times

The Irish Times online. Latest news including sport, analysis, business, weather and more from the definitive brand of quality news in Ireland.

https://www.irishtimes.com/

New memoir details George H.W. Bush's post-presidency life

New memoir details George H.W. Bush's post-presidency life

A new memoir is giving a behind-the-scenes look into George H.W. Bush's life after serving as president. "The Man I Knew" was written by Jean Becker, who worked as chief of staff for the 41st president for more than two decades, and joins CBSN's L...

Anthony Ramos & Jon M. Chu on How 'In The Heights' is Opening Doors

Anthony Ramos & Jon M. Chu on How 'In The Heights' is Opening Doors

Director Jon M. Chu and star Anthony Ramos talk to NBC News' Harry Smith about their film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical "In the Heights," and how the movie is opening doors for more Latino performers.» Subscribe to NBC News: » Watch m...

UN Secretary-General’s Gives Grave Warning On Climate Change.

UN Secretary-General’s Gives Grave Warning On Climate Change.

Secretary-General António Guterres offered a stark warning on climate change ahead of the G7 Summit. He tells NBC News’ Anne Thompson that this is “the make-it-or-break-it year” for action.» Subscribe to NBC News: » Watch more NBC video: NBC News ...

High-stakes cases ahead as Supreme Court term winds down.

High-stakes cases ahead as Supreme Court term winds down.

ABC News’ Devin Dwyer reports on the high number of unanimous decisions so far this Supreme Court term, and previews some of the major decisions to come this month. ABC News Live Prime, Weekdays at 7EST & 9EST WATCH the ABC News Live Stream Here: ...

Riding ‘Eclipse Air’ to chase a cosmic phenomenon

Riding ‘Eclipse Air’ to chase a cosmic phenomenon

ABC News’ Rob Marciano reports from the skies as eclipse chasers wake up early for a close-up look at the annular solar eclipse. ABC News Live Prime, Weekdays at 7EST & 9EST WATCH the ABC News Live Stream Here: SUBSCRIBE to ABC NEWS: Watch More on...

Benefits of vaccinating children outweigh risks, doctor says.

Benefits of vaccinating children outweigh risks, doctor says.

ABC News contributor and epidemiologist Dr. John Brownstein discusses the vaccination of children and the importance of donating vaccines to other countries. ABC News Live Prime, Weekdays at 7EST & 9EST WATCH the ABC News Live Stream Here: SUBSCRI...