China’s Mars Rover Set for Mid-May Landing
China is carrying forward its space exploration program with its first Martian landing attempt scheduled for mid-May and a new lunar probe due to be launched around 2024.
The China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced Saturday that the Mars rover, which reached orbit as part of the Tianwen-1 probe on Feb. 24, is expected to land on the red planet in mid-May.
The rover has been named “Zhurong” after a god of fire in Chinese mythology, said Wu Yanhua, deputy head of the CNSA.
As the country’s first solo mission to Mars, the Tianwen-1 probe — which consists of a combined orbiter, lander and rover — has been on its orbital flight for 9 months since it was launched last July from the island province of Hainan.
After landing, the rover will work with the Tianwen-1 orbiter to probe the surface of Mars, looking at a variety of materials including soil properties, material composition and ice, to search for signs of life on the planet.
On the same day the Mars landing plan was announced, Hu Hao, the chief designer of the third stage of China’s lunar exploration program, said at a conference that China plans to launch its Chang’e 6 probe around 2024.
The Chang’e 6 lunar probe, designed as a backup for Chang’e 5, will land in the South Pole-Aitken Basin on the far side of the moon and collect samples around 2024, Hu said, adding that the Chang’e 7 and Chang’e 8 missions are currently under study.
In December, a historic lunar mission brought back nearly 2 kilograms of moon rocks. “These samples are very precious and very informative, creating good conditions for subsequent analysis by experts,” Hu said.
Contact reporter Wang Xintong (email@example.com) and editor Michael Bellart (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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