29 April, 2021
7 Min Read
Zhurong – Mars rover
GS-Paper-3: S&T-Space – UPSC PRELIMS – Mains Application
Chinese government announced that its first Mars rover will be named Zhurong after a traditional fire god. This name fits with the Chinese name for Mars - “Huo Xing” or fire star.
The rover is aboard the Tianwen-1 probe that arrived in Mars orbit in February, 2021 and is due to land in May to look for evidence of life. The top candidate for the landing site on Mars is Utopia Planitia, a rock-strewn plain where the U.S. lander Viking 2 touched down in 1976.
Tianwen-1's Goals - To analyse and map the Martian surface and geology, look for water ice, study the climate and surface environment. China would become the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to put a robot rover on Mars.
It is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System. Mars is about half the size of Earth. As Mars orbits the Sun, it completes one rotation every 24.6 hours, which is very similar to one day on Earth (23.9 hours).
Mars' axis of rotation is tilted 25 degrees with respect to the plane of its orbit around the Sun. This is similar with Earth, which has an axial tilt of 23.4 degrees. Like Earth, Mars has distinct seasons, but they last longer than seasons on Earth since Mars takes longer to orbit the Sun (because it's farther away). Martian days are called sols—short for ‘solar day’.
Surface: It has colors such as brown, gold and tan. The reason Mars looks reddish is due to oxidation or rusting of iron in the rocks, and dust of Mars. Hence it is also called Red Planet.
Mars has the largest volcano in the solar system i.e. Olympus Mons. It's three times taller than Earth's Mt. Everest with a base the size of the state of New Mexico.
Atmosphere: Mars has a thin atmosphere made up mostly of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and argon gases.
Mars has no magnetic field till date, but areas of the Martian crust in the southern hemisphere are highly magnetized, indicating traces of a magnetic field.
Moons: Mars has two small moons, Phobos and Deimos, that may be captured asteroids.
Previous Mars Missions:
Why missions: First, Mars is a planet where life may have evolved in the past. Conditions on early Mars roughly around 4 billion years ago were very similar to that of Earth. It had a thick atmosphere, which enabled the stability of water on the surface of Mars.
Mars is the only planet that humans can visit or inhabit in the long term. Venus and Mercury have extreme temperatures – the average temperature is greater than 400 degree C. All planets in the outer solar system starting with Jupiter are made of gas – not silicates or rocks – and are very cold. Mars is comparatively hospitable in terms of temperature, with an approximate range between 20 degrees C at the Equator to minus 125 degrees C at the poles.
Launched on July of 2020.
It is expected to touch down on Mars at the Jezero Crater.
The primary task of Perseverance is to seek signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and reglolith to possibly return these to Earth.
Why is this mission significant?
Previous Mars Missions by NASA:
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