China has confirmed that it has safely landed its first Mars rover, Zhurong, launched into space last July with its Tianwen-1 spacecraft. With this development, China has become the second country to touch down on the surface of Mars after the USA. Before landing, the spacecraft had explored the Mars atmosphere and sent its photographs back to the Earth. Zhurong’s mission will be to look for signs of ancient life on the Red Planet during its exploration process on the surface of Mars.

Meaning ‘Questions to Heaven’ in Chinese, the Tianwen-1 spacecraft consists of 3 stages: the orbiter, the lander, and the Mars rover, Zhurong. Its scientific goals include investigating Martian surface geology and internal structure, searching for indications of current and past presence of water, and characterization of the space environment and the atmosphere of Mars.

Previously On...: Earlier this year in February, NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance also successfully landed on the surface of Mars. The cameras of the rover shared a few photographs from the landing ground after touch down. The spacecraft was launched into space from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida last July, just around the same time Tianwen-1 launched from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in China’s Hainan province. Perseverance is expected to send the Martian soil samples it collects back to the Earth in 2026.  

Zoom In: China has recently become a target of criticism because of an international scare caused by out-of-control debris re-entry from its rocket Long March 5B, which has fallen in the Indian Ocean near the Maldives. Most of the debris burned up during the re-entry to Earth, but a few small pieces were able to reach Earth’s surface. The possibility that the debris could strike a populated area brought a ton of criticism to China by various groups and authorities. After the re-entry, NASA administrator Bill Nelson accused China of failing to meet responsible standards regarding space debris in an official statement.

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