What will China's rover be researching on Mars?
Perseverance and curiosity have company.
The Chinese national space agency successfully landed its Zhurong rover on Mars on Saturday, state media reported. This made China the third country to land on the Red Planet after the United States and the Soviet Union (the 1971 Soviet mission failed shortly after landing). It is seen as a great achievement for Beijing's space program, which is becoming increasingly ambitious.
Zhurong will shortly be deployed from the lander for a three-month mission, joining the aforementioned NASA operational rovers. So what will it do? CNN and The Associated Press report that they will be looking for old life signs, but the mission seems a little more specific. The Scientific American reports that Zhurong's landing site, Utopia Planitia, is "a fairly mild area of rock-strewn sand," a good place to land, but "decidedly below par for answering current research questions such as Mars houses past or present present life. "
The mission should come in handy, though, Agnes Cousin, a planetary scientist at the Institute of Research and Astrophysics and Planetology in France, told The Scientific American. "For the overall geological impact on Mars, it's very nice to have a new location to compare," she said.
Among other things, Zhurong is equipped with the first magnetometer sent to Mars, which could potentially reveal details of how Mars lost its magnetic field billions of years ago, and subsequently its atmosphere and water. Read more at The Scientific American and The South China Morning Post.
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