China wants to land an unmanned scout on Mars sometime in the next few days. The cart, which has been named Zhurong, must gently land on the surface of the red planet between 15 and 19 May. That‘s what the Chinese space agency CNSA reports. According to unconfirmed reports from space followers, the landing on Mars could happen on the night from Friday to Saturday (Dutch time).
China can become the third country that manages to land a ‘robber‘ controlled on Mars, after the Soviet Union and the United States.
The Zhurong is named after a god of fire in Chinese myths. The cart flew to Mars aboard the space probe Tianwen-1 (Heavenly Questions-1). It was launched in July. In February, the vessel arrived at Mars, after a difficult crossing of 470 million kilometres in about 200 days. From an orbit around Mars, the Tianwen-1 was looking for a suitable place for the Zhurong to land. This has become Utopia Planitia, a plateau in the northern hemisphere of Mars.
Landing on Mars is particularly difficult. The landing takes about seven minutes. The scout shoots at a speed of about 5 kilometers per second into the atmosphere of Mars, a few minutes later it has to land gently dangling from a parachute. This is so fast that the flight control from Earth can’t intervene. Each assignment would only arrive a quarter of an hour later, when the landing is long and wide behind it. Meanwhile, there are many ways in which the lander can crash, such as a sudden gust of wind, a programming error or a component that collapses under the enormous forces.
China wants to use the Zhurong to find traces of life and map the surface and soil of Mars. Moreover, China wants to show the rest of the world what it is capable of and what its ambitions are.