The carriage, called Zhurong, should gently land on the surface of the red planet between May 15 and 19. This was reported by the Chinese space agency CNSA. According to unconfirmed reports from space followers, the landing on Mars could happen as early as the following night, from Friday to Saturday (Dutch time).
China could then become the third country to successfully land a craft on Mars in a controlled manner, after the Soviet Union and the United States.
Zhurong is named after the god of fire in Chinese mythology. The vehicle flew to Mars aboard the Tianwen-1 space probe (Heavenly Questions -1), which launched in July. In February, the spacecraft reached Mars after a difficult crossing of 470 million kilometers in about 200 days. From orbit around Mars, Tianwen-1 searched for a suitable location for the landing of Zorong. This became Utopia Planetia, a plateau in the northern hemisphere of Mars.
The landing on Mars is especially difficult: It takes about seven minutes to reach Mars. The searchlight blasts off into the Martian atmosphere at a speed of about 5 kilometers per second, and after a few minutes it should descend quietly from a parachute. This is so fast that flight control from Earth cannot intervene, because any command to make adjustments will not reach Mars until fifteen minutes have passed – after the descent is long behind us on a large scale. While anything can go wrong – sudden gusts of wind are enough to derail the million dollar mission.
With Zhurong, China wants to find traces of life and map the surface and soil of Mars, but the mission also has a majestic component: China wants to show the world what it can do.
In December, the American Perseverance Mission landed on Mars. The cart is currently collecting soil samples. NASA has also dispatched a small helicopter, which has made some successful test flights over the surface of Mars in recent months.