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China successfully sets its Zhurong rover down at Utopia Planitia on Mars

The landing had given China the distinction of being the first country to orbit, land and release a rover in its maiden mission to Mars.

China Zhurong rover roll on Utopia Planitia on Mars-VPN
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Beijing, First Published May 15, 2021, 8:51 AM IST

China joined an elite space club on Friday when its Zhurong rover successfully deployed on the surface of Mars.

The landing had given China the distinction of being the first country to orbit, land and release a rover in its maiden mission to Mars.

Earlier, the Tianwen-1 spacecraft landed at a vast plain named Utopia Planitia.

The 240-kilogram solar-powered rover named Zhurong is named after the mythical Chinese god of fire. It has six scientific instruments, including a high-resolution topography camera.

Until now, only US space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration's spacecraft have explored the surface of the red planet.

The landing follows China's launch last month of the core module of a new orbiting space station and a successful mission in December that collected nearly four pounds of rocks and soil from the moon and brought them back to Earth.

During its 90-day mission, the Zhurong rover will study the planet's surface soil and atmosphere. It will also look for signs of ancient life, including any sub-surface water and ice, using ground-penetrating radar.

The Zhurong rover has six wheels and four solar panels and can move 200 meters per hour on Martian terrain. Zhurong is the sixth rover ever deployed on Mars. Its five predecessors were from the United States.

Next month, China intends to send three astronauts to space, signalling a regular Chinese presence in Earth's orbit.

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