Zhurong (rover)

Summary

Zhurong
祝融
Part of Tianwen-1
Zhurong rover and Tianwen-1 lander (cropped).png
The Zhurong rover with the Tianwen-1 lander
TypeMars rover
Named afterZhurong
ManufacturerChina Academy of Space Technology[1]
Technical details
Dimensions2.6 by 3 by 1.85 metres (8 ft 6 in × 9 ft 10 in × 6 ft 1 in)
Launch mass240 kilograms (530 lb)
PowerSolar panels
Flight history
Launch date23 July 2020, 23:18 UTC[2]
Launch siteWenchang LC-101
Owners and operatorsChina National Space Administration
Landing date14 May 2021[5]
Landing site25°06′N 109°54′E / 25.1°N 109.9°E / 25.1; 109.9[3]
Utopia Planitia[4]
Total hours151 days, 11 hours and 43 minutes since deployment
Distance driven1.064 km (0.661 mi)[6]
as of 30 August 2021
Status
  • Operational (deployed from Tianwen-1 lander on 22 May 2021, 02:40 UTC)
Mars lander
Spacecraft componentTianwen-1 Remote Camera (TRC)
Landing date14 May 2021, 23:18 UTC (deployed from Zhurong rover on 1 June 2021, which itself was deployed from Tianwen-1 lander on 22 May 2021, 02:40 UTC)[7]
Landing siteUtopia Planitia[4]
25°06′N 109°54′E / 25.1°N 109.9°E / 25.1; 109.9[8]
Instruments
  • MarSCoDe
  • MCS
  • MSCam
  • NaTeCam
  • RoMAG
  • RoPeR

Zhurong (Chinese: 祝融; pinyin: Zhùróng) is a Mars rover that is China's first rover to land on another planet (they had previously landed two rovers on the Moon). It is part of the Tianwen-1 mission to Mars conducted by the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

The spacecraft was launched on 23 July 2020 and inserted into Martian orbit on 10 February 2021. The lander, carrying the rover, performed a successful soft-landing on Mars on 14 May 2021,[9] making China the second country that successfully soft-landed a spacecraft on Mars and established communications from the surface, after the United States.[10] Zhurong was successfully deployed on 22 May 2021, 02:40 UTC.[11]

Name

Zhurong is named after a Chinese mytho-historical figure usually associated with fire and light, as Mars is called "the Planet of Fire" (Chinese: 火星) in China and some other countries in East Asia. It was selected by a public online vote held between 20 January 2021 and 28 February 2021, with Zhurong ranking first with 504,466 votes.[12] The name was chosen with meaning of "ignite the fire of interstellar exploration in China and to symbolize the Chinese people's determination to explore the stars and to uncover unknowns in the universe".[13]

History

Mockup of the Zhurong rover at the 69th International Astronautical Congress

China began its first interplanetary exploration attempt in 2011 by sending Yinghuo-1, a Mars orbiter, in a joint mission with Russia. It did not leave Earth orbit due to a failure of the Russian launch vehicle.[14] As a result, the Chinese space agency then embarked on its independent Mars mission.

The first early model of the future Mars rover was on display in November 2014 at the 10th China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition. It had an appearance similar to the Yutu lunar rover, which had deployed on the Moon.[15]

On 22 April 2016, Xu Dazhe, head of the CNSA, announced that the Mars mission had been approved on 11 January 2016. A probe would be sent to Martian orbit and attempt to land on Mars in 2020.[16]

On 23 August 2016, China revealed the first images of the final version of the Mars mission spacecrafts, which confirmed the composition of a Mars orbiter, lander, and rover in one mission.[17]

The scientific objectives and payloads of the Mars mission were declared in a paper published in Journal of Deep Space Exploration in December 2017.[18]

On 24 April 2020, China's interplanetary exploration program was formally announced by CNSA, along with the name Tianwen and an emblem of the program.[19] The first mission of the program, the Mars mission to be carried out in 2020, was named Tianwen-1.[20]

On 24 April 2021, in anticipation of the upcoming landing attempt, CNSA formally announced that the rover would be named Zhurong (Chinese: 祝融号).[21]

Landing area selection

The landing area was determined based on two criteria:[22]

  • Engineering feasibility, including latitude, altitude, slope, surface condition, rock distribution, local wind speed, visibility requirements during the EDL process.
  • Scientific objectives, including geology, soil structure and water ice distribution, surface elements, mineral, and rock distribution, magnetic field detection.

Two areas were preselected in the next stage: Chryse Planitia and Utopia Planitia.

The two landing site candidates of Tianwen-1 mission.
The two landing site candidates of Tianwen-1 mission are enclosed by red lines on Martian map. The one on the left is located in Chryse Planitia and the one on the right in Utopia Planitia.

The candidate in Utopia Planitia was more favored by the team due to higher chances of finding proofs about whether an ancient ocean ever existed on the northern part of Mars.[22] It was eventually selected as the final landing area of the mission.

Mission timeline

Zhurong's parachute deployment and powered landing sequence

Tianwen-1, along with Zhurong rover, was launched at 12:41 UTC+8 on 23 July 2020, from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site by a Long March 5 heavy-lifted rocket.[23]

After a 202-day journey through interplanetary space, Tianwen-1 inserted itself into Martian orbit on 10 February 2021, thereby becoming China's first Mars orbiter.[24] Subsequently, it performed several orbital maneuvers and began surveying target landing sites on Mars in preparation for the coming landing attempt.

On 14 May 2021, the lander and Zhurong rover separated from Tianwen-1's orbiter. After experiencing Mars atmospheric entry that lasted about nine minutes, the lander and rover made a successful soft landing in the Utopia Planitia, using a combination of aeroshell, parachute, and retrorocket.[25] With the landing, China became the second country to operate a fully functional spacecraft on Martian surface, after the United States.

After establishing stable communication with the rover, CNSA released its first pictures from the surface of Mars on 19 May 2021.[26]

Zhurong rover deployment from lander, heard by Mars Climatic Station (MCS) (22 May 2021)

On 22 May 2021, at 10:10 a.m. Beijing time (0240 GMT), Zhurong drove from its landing platform to the surface of Mars, starting its exploration mission.[27][28]

On 11 June 2021, CNSA released the first batch of scientific images from the surface of Mars including a panoramic image taken by Zhurong, and a colored group photo of Zhurong and the Tianwen-1 lander taken by a wireless camera placed on Martian soil. The panoramic image is composed of 24 single shots taken by the NaTeCam before the rover was deployed to the Martian surface. The image reveals that the topography and rock abundance near the landing site was consistent with previous anticipations from the scientist on typical south Utopia Planitia features with small but widespread rocks, white wave patterns, and mud volcanoes.[7]

Rover and lander captured by HiRISE from NASA's MRO on June 6, 2021
Rover and lander captured by HiRISE from NASA's MRO on 6 June 2021

On 27 June 2021, CNSA released images and videos of Zhurong's EDL process and movement on Martian surface, including a clip of sounds made by Zhurong recorded by its instrument, Mars Climatic Station (MCS).[29]

As of 11 July 2021, CNSA also announced that Zhurong had travelled more than 410 m (1,350 ft) on Martian surface.[30]

On 12 July 2021, Zhurong visited the parachute and backshell dropped onto Martian surface during its landing on 14 May.[31][32]

Operation records of Zhurong
Date Operational time Distance travelled Ref(s)
27 June 2021 42 sols 236 m (774 ft) [33]
11 July 2021 55 sols 410 m (1,350 ft) [34]
17 July 2021 61 sols 509 m (1,670 ft) [35]
30 July 2021 74 sols 708 m (2,323 ft) [36]
6 August 2021 81 sols 808 m (2,651 ft) [37]
23 August 2021 97 sols 1,000 m (3,300 ft) [38]

As of 15 August 2021, Zhurong had officially completed its planned exploration tasks and will continue to drive towards the southern part of Utopia Planitia where it landed.[38] Although the rover's lifespan has been used up, it remains possible for it to still roam on the Martian surface and transmit data to the Tianwen-1 Mars orbiter until its functions cease to perform.

Exploration

Objectives

The rover's mission planned tasks are to:[39]

  • Study the topography and geology of the local area
  • Examine the soil, and any ice content
  • Survey the elements, minerals and rocks
  • Atmospheric sampling

Instruments

The configuration and layout of payloads on board the Zhurong rover

The lander carried a Mars Emergency Beacon designed to survive the force of a crash, which was to be deployed in the event of a catastrophic failure. This beacon would have allowed critical engineering data to be collected even if catastrophic failure occurred, to aid future design.[40]

The six-wheeled rover weighs 240 kg, and is 1.85 m tall.[41] It is powered by four solar panels and carries six scientific instruments:[28][39][22]

  • Mars Rover Penetrating Radar (RoPeR) Ground-penetrating radar (GPR), two frequencies, to image about 100 m (330 ft) below the Martian surface[42] It was one of the two very first ground-penetrating radars deployed on Mars, along with the one equipped by NASA's Perseverance rover launched and landed in same years.[43]
  • Mars Rover Magnetometer (RoMAG) obtains the fine-scale structures of crustal magnetic field based on mobile measurements on the Martian surface.
  • Mars Climate Station (MCS) (also MMMI Mars Meteorological Measurement Instrument) measures the temperature, pressure, wind velocity and direction of the surface atmosphere, and has a microphone to capture Martian sounds. During the rover's deployment, it recorded the sound, acting as the second Martian sound instrument to record Martian sounds successfully after Mars 2020 Perseverance rover's microphones.
  • Mars Surface Compound Detector (MarSCoDe) combines laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) and infrared spectroscopy.[39]
  • Multispectral Camera (MSCam) Combined with MarSCoDe, MSCam investigates the mineral components to establish the relationship between Martian surface water environment and secondary mineral types, and to search for historical environmental conditions for the presence of liquid water.
  • Navigation and Topography Cameras (NaTeCam) With 2048 × 2048 resolution, NaTeCam is used to construct topography maps, extract parameters such as slope, undulation and roughness, investigate geological structures, and conduct comprehensive analysis on the geological structure of the surface parameters.

Among the six scientific instruments, RoPeR works during roving; MarSCoDe, MSCam and NaTeCam work when being stationary; RoMAG and MCS work both when moving or still.[22]

Other instruments include:

  • Remote Camera A small camera dropped by the rover to take photos of the rover and the lander on 1 June 2021. Captured images are transferred to the rover via Wi-Fi.[44][7]

Plan

The rover had a planned operational lifetime of 90 sols. Originally, every three sols were defined as one operation period. The basic process of each operation period was:[22]

  • Sol 1: NaTeCam captures images on Martian surface for analysis and operations planning.
  • Sol 2: Each payload performs scientific exploration.
  • Sol 3: The rover moves towards target location. RoMAG and MCS collect data when roving.

Acquired data is downlinked each sol. The data will be processed by teams in CNSA during an official 5–6 months' proprietary period before being released to the scientific community.[22]

In July 2021, the designer of Tianwen-1 orbiter disclosed that due to Zhurong's better-than-expected performance, the original three-day period has been merged into one, accelerating its exploration process.[45]

Acheron FossaeAcidalia PlanitiaAlba MonsAmazonis PlanitiaAonia PlanitiaArabia TerraArcadia PlanitiaArgentea PlanumArgyre PlanitiaChryse PlanitiaClaritas FossaeCydonia MensaeDaedalia PlanumElysium MonsElysium PlanitiaGale craterHadriaca PateraHellas MontesHellas PlanitiaHesperia PlanumHolden craterIcaria PlanumIsidis PlanitiaJezero craterLomonosov craterLucus PlanumLycus SulciLyot craterLunae PlanumMalea PlanumMaraldi craterMareotis FossaeMareotis TempeMargaritifer TerraMie craterMilankovič craterNepenthes MensaeNereidum MontesNilosyrtis MensaeNoachis TerraOlympica FossaeOlympus MonsPlanum AustralePromethei TerraProtonilus MensaeSirenumSisyphi PlanumSolis PlanumSyria PlanumTantalus FossaeTempe TerraTerra CimmeriaTerra SabaeaTerra SirenumTharsis MontesTractus CatenaTyrrhen TerraUlysses PateraUranius PateraUtopia PlanitiaValles MarinerisVastitas BorealisXanthe TerraMap of Mars
The image above contains clickable links
(view • discuss)
Interactive image map of the global topography of Mars, overlain with locations of Mars Lander and Rover sites. Hover your mouse over the image to see the names of over 60 prominent geographic features, and click to link to them. Coloring of the base map indicates relative elevations, based on data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor. Whites and browns indicate the highest elevations (+12 to +8 km); followed by pinks and reds (+8 to +3 km); yellow is 0 km; greens and blues are lower elevations (down to −8 km). Axes are latitude and longitude; Polar regions are noted.
(See also: Mars map; Mars Memorials map / list)
(   Active ROVER  Inactive  Active LANDER  Inactive  Future )
Beagle 2
Bradbury Landing
Deep Space 2
Columbia Memorial Station
InSight Landing
Mars 2
Mars 3
Mars 6
Mars Polar Lander
Challenger Memorial Station
Mars 2020
Green Valley
Schiaparelli EDM
Carl Sagan Memorial Station
Columbia Memorial Station
Tianwen-1
Thomas Mutch Memorial Station
Gerald Soffen Memorial Station

Gallery

See also

References

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