France Press agency , Posted on Friday May 14th, 2021 at 11:41 am
China is preparing to attempt to land a small, unmanned robot on Mars, a particularly sensitive operation that testifies to Beijing’s increasingly bold ambitions in space.
Amidst the diplomatic and technological rivalry with the United States, the Asian giant launched the “Tianwen-1” probe to Mars last July.
It took the machine seven months to cover the 55 million kilometers that separated it from the Red Planet – 1,400 times around the world.
The probe, which reached Mars orbit in February, consists of three components, including the probe, which is supposed to land in the coming days, if not in the coming hours.
The unit should allow a remote-controlled robot, “Zhurong” (the god of fire in Chinese mythology), to go out to analyze the surface.
The China Space Agency (CNSA) initially indicated a possible window between mid-May and mid-June.
On Friday, it said in a short statement that the decline should take place “between the early morning of May 15 and May 19,” that is, between Saturday and Wednesday China time.
Speculation was high in China after a prominent spaceflight specialist announced that an unmanned robot would hit Mars on Saturday morning.
Yi Beijian, head of the Lunar Exploration Program, is planning to land the spacecraft as early as 7:11 on Saturday Beijing time (11:11 GMT Friday), according to media reports and held Thursday at a conference.
“Zhurong” is supposed to be in operation for a period of three months.
In the event of a successful landing, it should enable the study of the Martian environment and the analysis of rock formation.
The “Tianwen-1” mission sent its first image of Mars in February: a black and white image showing Earth shapes such as the Schiaparelli Crater and the Valles Marineris valley system.