Sunday, June 13, 2021

China's Zhurong Mars Rover Takes a Selfie

China has big ambitions for space. 

FYI, Chinese scientists were early pioneers of rudimentary rockets back in the year 900, though only launched its first Long March rocket in 1970 on the back of Soviet technology, sending a human into space in 2003. 

Now, it’s making fast progress. In January, China broke new ground by landing its Chang’e 4 lunar lander on the far side of the moon, which, due to the moon’s synchronous, tidally locked rotation, remains constantly hidden from Earth. There, China’s Jade Rabbit 2 rover was able to transmit data back to Earth via a satellite previously deployed around the moon to establish a radio link. In another first, a cotton seed was germinated onboard the Chang’e 4, which is named after China’s mythical moon goddess. 

And its latest endeavor is Mars. 

China’s space mission to the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System was launched on July 23, 2020 on a Long March 5 heavy-lift launch vehicle. 

After seven months of transit through the inner solar system, the spacecraft entered Martian orbit on February 10, 2021. For the next three months the probe studied the target landing sites from a reconnaissance orbit. On May 14, 2021, the lander/rover portion of the mission successfully touched down on Mars. 

And on May 22, 2021, the 1.85-meter-tall and some 240-kilogram Zhurong rover drove onto the Martian surface via the descent ramps on the landing platform. 

With the successful deployment of the rover, China became the second nation to accomplish this feat, after the United States, as well as the first nation to orbit, land and release a rover during its first foray into Martian space.

The Zhurong rover sent back images from Mars – including a "selfie" (second photo)

The robot positioned a wireless camera on the ground and then rolled back a short distance to take the snap. To Zhurong's right is the rocket-powered platform that brought the six-wheeled vehicle to a soft touchdown. 

The third picture looks out to the horizon from the landing site. This region is known as Utopia Planitia, a vast terrain in Mars' northern hemisphere. 

Chinese scientists are hoping to get at least 90 Martian days of service out of Zhurong. 

I'm confident China is all set to become a space superpower. 

Already, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation have set a target for the country to be a “world-leading” space power by 2045 and knowing the country, it will achieve its ambition long before that.

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