Beijing Airport (AFP)
Expectations for China’s “Jurang” rover to land on Mars increased on Friday, just months after the US’s latest Red Planet probe, and Beijing is advancing with its increasingly bold space ambitions.
Last July, China’s Mars rover Dianwen-1 marked a major milestone in its space program, which Beijing sees as a sign of its growing global status and technological prowess.
The spacecraft, which entered Mars’ orbit in February, has now reached a “critical touchdown stage” as it prepares to land its rover on a vast northern volcanic plain called Utopia Planetia, the state-run Tabloid Global Times reported on Friday.
Chinese officials have been tight-lipped about touchdown time, but the landing window is open from mid-May to mid-June, according to China’s National Space Administration.
Rumors have been circulating on social media about a rover named after a mythical Chinese fire god – landing on Saturday following an estimate by a top astronaut that it would reach the surface in Beijing in the morning.
Ye Beijian, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a leading researcher on China’s lunar program, said in a speech at the Beijing Institute of Technology on Thursday that Roger would land at 7:11 a.m. Beijing time on Saturday, local media reported.
The tricky landing is called “seven-minute terror” because it happens faster than radio signals from Mars can reach Earth, which means communications are limited.
Several U.S., Russian and European attempts to land rovers on Mars have failed in the past, most recently in 2016 when the Schiaparelli joint Russian-European spacecraft crashed.
The latest successful visit came in February when the US space agency NASA diligently landed its rover, which has been exploring the planet.
The American rover launched a small robotic helicopter to Mars, the first aircraft to fly to another planet.
The six-wheeled, solar-powered Chinese rover weighs about 240 kilograms and collects and analyzes rock samples from the surface of Mars.
It is expected to spend about three months there.
If successful, China would be the first country in the world to carry out orbit, landing and rowing operations during its first voyage to Mars.
It will become the third country to safely touch the Red Planet after Russia and the United States.
The country has come a long way in its race to capture the United States and Russia, with its astronauts and astronauts having decades of experience in space research.
China successfully launched the first set of its new space station last month as a group in 2022 with the hope of finally sending humans to the moon.
Last week, part of the Chinese Long March 5B rocket landed uncontrollably in the Indian Ocean.
It has drawn criticism from the United States and other countries for violating the etiquette of managing space debris returning to Earth, with officials saying the debris could endanger lives and property.
© 2021 AFP