China’s Zhurong rover will land on Mars TONIGHT

China is set to land its Zhurong rover, currently strapped to the Tianwen-1 orbiter, on Mars tonight as part of the country’s first interplanetary mission.

Officials revealed Thursday that the capsule will embark on its ‘seven minutes of terror’ around 19:11 ET (00:11 BST), enduring the same tumultuous conditions NASA‘s Perseverance rover went through to land in Jezero crater earlier this year.

Zhurong, named after an ancient god of fire, is tucked in the belly of China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft that entered parking orbit around Mars in February. 

The rover will descend into the thin atmosphere tonight and attempt to land in the Utopia Planitia, that is the same area as NASA’s 1976 Viking 2 lander. 

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China is set to land its Zhurong rover on Mars tonight for its first interplanetary mission that will make it the third country to touchdown on the Red Planet

The seven minutes of terror is a term used to describe the tumultuous conditions that batter the craft as it enters the Martian atmosphere and approaches the surface.

During this time, teams on Earth lose full communication with the craft for 10 minutes. 

The spacecraft will shoot through Mars’ atmosphere moving at 12,000 miles per hour, but then must slow down to a gentle landing within seven minutes. 

Officials revealed Thursday that the capsule will embark on its 'seven minutes of terror' around 19:11 ET (00:11 BST), which is the same tumultuous conditions endured by NASA's Perseverance rover earlier this year

Officials revealed Thursday that the capsule will embark on its ‘seven minutes of terror’ around 19:11 ET (00:11 BST), which is the same tumultuous conditions endured by NASA’s Perseverance rover earlier this year

China is set to land its Zhurong rover on Mars tonight for its first interplanetary mission that will make it the third country to touchdown on the Red Planet

China is set to land its Zhurong rover on Mars tonight for its first interplanetary mission that will make it the third country to touchdown on the Red Planet

NASA’s five successful Mars rovers… and Russia’s crash landings

If Zhurong touches down successfully, it will be the first non-US rover to land on Mars. There have been seven rover missions to the Red Planet – but two Soviet missions in the 70s failed:

Mars 2 Prop-M Rover  (USSR) – Destroyed in crash landing on November 27 1971.

Mars 3 Prop-M Rover (USSR) – Lost communication 20 seconds after landing on December 2 1971.

Mars Pathfinder Sojourner (NASA) – Rover was the first to successful land on Mars when it touched down July 4, 1997. It travelled just 330 feet, but was active for 85 days before contact was lost on October 7, 1997.

Mars Exploration Rover Spirit (NASA) – The twin of the Opportunity rover, below. Landed on January 4, 2004. On May 1, 2009 it got stuck in soft sand. Communication was lost on March 22, 2010.

Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity (NASA) – Landed on January 25, 2004 and was active until contact was lost on June 10, 2018 after a dust storm covered its solar panels and it failed to charge its batteries. It travelled 28.06 miles during its mission – the furthest of any Mars rover. 

Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity (NASA) – Landed on January 25, 2012 and is currently active after more than 3,000 days.

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