China’s Zhurong rover is now on Mars

The remote-controlled vehicle now rolled down the ramp of the landing capsule – about 2,000 kilometers away from the American rover Perseverance.

First trip: China's space agency CNSA announces the next step in the Mars mission.

China is celebrating a great success with its space program. Ten months after the launch of the unmanned Mars probe Tianwen-1, the rover it carried through space drove on the red planet for the first time.

The remote-controlled vehicle slid down the ramp of the landing capsule on Saturday and rolled onto the surface of Mars at 4.40 a.m. (CEST). This was announced on the vehicle’s official account on Chinese social media. This makes China the first country to orbit the planet, land on it and use a rover on its first space trip to Mars.

The Soviet Union in 1971

The Mars vehicle, which weighs 240 kilograms and is powered by solar energy, bears the name “Zhurong”. In Chinese mythology, this is the god of fire. The vehicle is intended to examine the soil and the atmosphere of Mars and, in particular, to search for water and traces of possible past life.

A week ago, on May 15, the landing capsule with the rover was disconnected from the Tianwen-1 probe and then went down. Tianwen-1 was launched in July last year. The name means “questions to heaven” and is borrowed from an ancient Chinese poem.

The only two countries that have ever operated vehicles on Mars are the United States and China. The American rover Perseverance went down on February 18, about 2,000 kilometers from the location of the Chinese one. The American vehicle Curiosity landed back in 2012.

China launched a Mars mission together with Russia in 2011. But the Russian launcher failed to leave Earth orbit and broke over the Pacific Ocean. The former Soviet Union brought a vehicle to the ground on the red planet in 1971, but shortly afterwards lost the connection. Plans for a joint flight to Mars by the EU and Russia had been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic and technical problems.