Baking / Praha The Chinese spacecraft, Zhu-zhong, led by the Chinese probe Tien-wen-1, will attempt to land on the Red Planet at night from Friday to Saturday. Its main mission is to study the internal structure of Mars.
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According to the Chinese space agency CNSA, Rover Zhuong (in the English version of Zhurong) is scheduled to land on Mars at 1:00 pm CEST. The Tian-wen-1 spacecraft has been in orbit around the Red Planet since February 10. Its name means “Heavenly Questions”. It is taken from a poem written in the third or fourth century BC. The chariot is named after the ancient Chinese god of fire. The device consists of the body of the probe itself and a conical landing capsule.
After four minutes and 44 seconds, a parachute will open four kilometers above the surface of Mars. In another 41 seconds, a heat shield separates three kilometers from the bottom of the capsule. After another 45 seconds, at a height of a kilometer and a half above the planet’s surface, the capsule’s cap separates from the parachute. The landing gear will continue to descend at 95 meters per second. A rocket engine is fired at a height of one hundred meters above the surface of Mars.
The unit lands, and the ramp swings off it, followed by the Zhuong chariot. Before that, however, he should open the solar panels and tilt the camera and the attached antenna. Mars is currently less than 317 million km from Earth. The terrestrial radio signal will arrive in just over 17 and a half minutes. Therefore, the landing maneuver could not be interfered with from the ground.
The Zhuong car weighs 240 kg. It measures three in length, 2.6 in width and 1.85 meters in height. It moves on six wheels. It should last at least 90 Mars days, or Mars days. If nothing bad happens to him in the hostile environment of the planet, he could bypass this time several times.
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Most of the Zhuong rover missions relate to Mars geology, and it carries six scientific instruments. The most important is the ground-based microwave radar. The truck is allowed to see up to 100 meters below the surface. In addition, Zhuung has a magnetic field detector, meteorological probe, and laser spectrophotometer for determining rock and mineral composition. Everything complements two cameras.
CNSA has chosen Utopia Planitia for the landing. It is a crater after the impact of a foreign body. Its diameter is 3300 km. It is the largest known structure in the solar system. The US spacecraft Viking 2 landed in the crater in 1976.
According to radar measurements made by the US Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter from 2016, a large amount of ice could be hidden beneath the surface of the crater. Its size could correspond to about 1.2 times the size of Lake Superior in North America. The landscapes within the crater are already similar to some areas on our planet from which the ice underground has been documented.
The crater also has a peculiar cultural significance. The creators of the American series Star Trek put shipyards in it, where a fictitious union of planets will one day build giant spaceships.
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If the Zhuong rover lands, China will become only the second country after the United States to take over the rover operation on Mars. After the USA and the Soviet Union, it would be the third country capable of an easy landing on the Red Planet. It would take CNSA years to gain experience for a planned mission to return samples to Earth. He relied on it in the 1930s. Zhuong is set to become the sixth spacecraft to land on Mars. The first was the Soviet spacecraft Mars 3. It landed on the surface of the Red Planet in 1971. However, the Soviets lost contact with their spacecraft twenty seconds after its landing. Thus the American Rover Sojourner became the first successful vehicle. It landed on Mars in 1997. A pair of identical US air vehicles, Spirit and Opportunity, followed in 2004. Curiosity followed in 2012 and Perseverance in 2021. The last two rovers are still active and fulfilling their science program.
The 2020/2021 season is particularly crowded on Mars. In addition to the Chinese and American devices, the Emirati Al-Amal probe has reached the planet. However, it does not have its own rover and is satisfied with the measurement from orbit.
The average temperature on Mars is -63 degrees Celsius. Atmospheric pressure corresponds to only about six percent of that of the Earth, and gravity is about 38 percent. There could be no liquid water on the planet at the moment, but according to various evidence, it was different. Whether life is on Mars remains to be determined.