Chinese spacecraft with a rover called Zhurong will attempt to land on Mars in the next five days, the Chinese space agency CNSA announced on Friday. The planned landing is part of the first fully Chinese unmanned mission to the Red Planet.
"Based on current flight conditions, the Tianwen-1 probe will try to find a landing opportunity ... between early Saturday morning and Wednesday, Beijing time," CNSA wrote in an online press release.
The Tianwen-1 probe set off from the Wenchang cosmodrome on the island-province of Hainan in July 2020, and in February this year, after traveling 475 million kilometers, entered Mars orbit. It is currently in a "crucial phase of landing," the Chinese daily Global Times reported on Friday.
According to the newspaper, the probe is expected to land somewhere in the vast Utopia Planita plain in the northern circumpolar zone of Mars.
The complicated process of landing on Mars is sometimes referred to as "seven minutes of fear" because it takes less than the time needed for radio signals to reach Earth, which means that communication with the spacecraft is limited.
AFP recalls that in the past several attempts to land on Mars by the US, Russia and European countries have failed. The last successful attempt took place in February, when the US space agency NASA placed the Perseverance rover on the surface of this planet.
The Zhurong rover, named after the god of fire from ancient Chinese mythology, has a solar drive, six wheels, 1.85 meters high and weighs 240 kilograms. It is to travel the Red Planet for about three months, collecting and analyzing rock samples.
If successful, China will become the first country in the world to orbit, land and launch a rover on Mars as part of its first Mars mission.
The Tianwen-1 mission is considered an example of Beijing's growing space ambitions. China has also recently launched a key element of its own space station into orbit and is planning to build a research station on the moon together with Russia.
Andrzej Borowiak from Canton (PAP)