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, making China the second country that successfully soft-landed a spacecraft on Mars and established communications from the surface, after the United States.Zhurong was successfully deployed on 22 May 2021, 02:40 UTC.
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. 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".
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. As a result, the Chinese space agency then embarked on its independent Mars mission.
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.
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.
The scientific objectives and payloads of the Mars mission were declared in a paper published in Journal of Deep Space Exploration in December 2017.
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. The first mission of the program, the Mars mission to be carried out in 2020, was named Tianwen-1.
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).
Landing area selection
The landing area was determined based on two criteria:
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.
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. It was eventually selected as the final landing area of the mission.
Zhurong's parachute deployment and powered landing sequence
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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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).
As of 11 July 2021, CNSA also announced that Zhurong had travelled more than 410 m (1,350 ft) on Martian surface.
On 12 July 2021, Zhurong visited the parachute and backshell dropped onto Martian surface during its landing on 14 May.
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. 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.
Study the topography and geology of the local area
Examine the soil, and any ice content
Survey the elements, minerals and rocks
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.
The six-wheeled rover weighs 240 kg, and is 1.85 m tall. It is powered by four solar panels and carries six scientific instruments:
Mars Rover Penetrating Radar (RoPeR) Ground-penetrating radar (GPR), two frequencies, to image about 100 m (330 ft) below the Martian surface 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.
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 2020Perseverance rover's microphones.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
^Zhao, Lei (23 July 2020). "China-made Mars rover set for upcoming mission". China Daily. Archived from the original on 18 May 2021. Retrieved 18 May 2021. Developed by the China Academy of Space Technology in Beijing, a major manufacturer of Chinese spacecraft, the rover carries six scientific instruments
^Wall, Mike (23 July 2020). "China launches ambitious Tianwen-1 Mars rover mission". Space.com. Retrieved 12 February 2021.
^State Key Laboratory of Lunar and Planetary Sciences [@sklplanets] (15 May 2021). "succesful [sic] landing of #Tianwen1, on #Mars! Landing point: 109.7 E, 25.1 N, less than 40 km from target location in Utopia Planitia. More details expected later!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
^ abJones, Andrew (28 October 2020). "China chooses landing site for its Tianwen-1 Mars rover". Space.com. Retrieved 16 November 2020.
^Hebden, Kerry (14 May 2021). "China is about to land its Zhurong rover on Mars". Room. Retrieved 16 May 2021. The same Chinese space watchers who revealed the impending descent also report that Zhurong will begin exploration on 22 May
^"Zhurong update: New panorama from the rover close to a dune. Zhurong has covered 1064 metres as of August 30, continuing south of the landing platform [CNSA/PEC]". Twitter. Retrieved 31 August 2021.
^ abc"天问一号探测器着陆火星首批科学影像图揭幕". cnsa.gov.cn (in Chinese). China National Space Administration. 11 June 2021. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
^Weitering, Hanneke (15 May 2021). "China's 1st Mars rover 'Zhurong' lands on the Red Planet". Space.com. Retrieved 16 May 2021.
^Myers, Steven Lee; Chang, Kenneth (14 May 2021). "China's Mars Rover Mission Lands on the Red Planet". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 May 2021.
^Woo, Ryan (15 May 2021). "China completes historic Mars spacecraft landing". Reuters. Retrieved 16 May 2021.
^Zhao, Lei (22 May 2021). "China's Zhurong rover moves onto Martian surface to begin scientific operations". China Daily. Archived from the original on 22 May 2021. Retrieved 22 May 2021.
^""祝融号"荣登榜首！中国首辆火星车全球征名投票结束". Hunan Today (in Chinese). 2 March 2021. Archived from the original on 24 April 2021.
^Cui, Xia; Xu, Jing; Li, Chen; Cai, Jinman (24 April 2021). Qiu, Jing (ed.). "定了！"祝融号"——中国首辆火星车有名字了！" [Deal! "Zhurong"—China's first Mars rover has a name!]. CCTV News (in Chinese). Retrieved 30 April 2021.
^Brown, Mark (7 February 2012). "Programming glitch, not radiation or satellites, doomed Phobos-Grunt". Wired UK. Archived from the original on 10 February 2012. Retrieved 26 February 2012.
^Wei, Yan; Ma, Li, eds. (11 November 2014). "高清：中国火星探测器首秀 火星车神似"玉兔"". People's Daily (in Chinese). Retrieved 7 June 2021.
^Zhao, Lei (23 April 2016). "Probe of Mars set for 2020". China Daily. Archived from the original on 23 April 2016. Retrieved 22 May 2021.
^"China shows first images of Mars rover, aims for 2020 mission". Reuters. 23 August 2016. Retrieved 7 June 2021.
^Zhu, Yan; Bai, Yunfei; Wang, Lianguo; Shen, Weihua; Zhang, Baoming; Wang, Wei; Zhou, Shengyu; Du, Qingguo; Chen, Chunhong (December 2017). "中国首次火星探测工程有效载荷总体设计" [Integral Technical Scheme of Payloads System for Chinese Mars-1 Exploration]. Journal of Deep Space Exploration (in Chinese). 4 (6): 510–514, 534. doi:10.15982/j.issn.2095-7777.2017.06.002.
^官宣 | 中国首次火星探测任务名称和图形标识正式发布 (in Chinese). China National Space Administration. 24 April 2020. Retrieved 22 May 2021 – via Bilibili.
^Zhao, Lei (24 April 2020). "China's first Mars mission named Tianwen 1". China Daily. Archived from the original on 25 January 2021. Retrieved 22 May 2021.
^"China's first Mars rover named Zhurong". Xinhua News Agency. 24 April 2021. Retrieved 24 April 2021.
^ abWebb, Sara; Allen, Rebecca (18 May 2021). "On its first try, China's Zhurong rover hit a Mars milestone that took NASA decades". The Conversation. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
^An, Puzhong; Wang, Lingshuo (28 June 2021). Liu, Shangjing (ed.). "国家航天局发布天问一号任务着陆和巡视探测系列实拍影像". mod.gov.cn (in Chinese). Ministry of National Defense of the People's Republic of China. Retrieved 28 June 2021.
^Zhang, Rachel (12 July 2021). "China's Zhu Rong rover zooms in on rocks in Mars space mission". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 12 July 2021.
^""祝融号"近距离"看"降落伞与背罩". cnsa.gov.cn (in Chinese). China National Space Administration. 16 July 2021. Retrieved 21 July 2021.
^Jones, Andrew (15 July 2021). "China's Zhurong Mars rover visits own parachute". SpaceNews. Retrieved 21 July 2021.
^"天问一号任务着陆和巡视探测系列实拍影像发布". cnsa.gov.cn (in Chinese). China National Space Administration. 27 June 2021. Retrieved 27 June 2021.
^Xu, Jing; Tao, Jiashu (11 July 2021). Ye, Pan (ed.). ""祝融号"火星车行驶超400米". China News Service (in Chinese). CCTV News. Retrieved 11 July 2021.
^Wang, Mengmeng, ed. (18 July 2021). "祝融号火星车行驶里程突破509米" (in Chinese). Xinhua News Agency. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
^"Chinese rover Zhurong captures new unpublished images of Mars". Newsy Today. 3 August 2021. Retrieved 30 August 2021.
^Jiao, Peng, ed. (6 August 2021). "祝融号累计行驶里程突破800米" (in Chinese). Xinhua News Agency. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
^ ab"China's rover travels over 1 km on Mars". China Daily. Xinhua News Agency. 23 August 2021. Retrieved 30 August 2021.
^ abcZou, Yongliao; Zhu, Yan; Bai, Yunfei; Wang, Lianguo; Jia, Yingzhuo; Shen, Weihua; Fan, Yu; Liu, Yang; Wang, Chi; Zhang, Aibing; Yu, Guobin; Dong, Jihong; Shu, Rong; He, Zhiping; Zhang, Tielong; Du, Aimin; Fan, Mingyi; Yang, Jianfeng; Zhou, Bin; Wang, Yi; Peng, Yongqing (2021). "Scientific objectives and payloads of Tianwen-1, China's first Mars exploration mission". Advances in Space Research. 67 (2): 812–823. Bibcode:2021AdSpR..67..812Z. doi:10.1016/j.asr.2020.11.005. ISSN 0273-1177.
^"为天问一号装上"会打电话的黑匣子"". 人民网. 17 May 2021. Retrieved 31 August 2021.
^Jones, Andrew (29 March 2021). "Here's What You Need to Know About China's Mars Rover". IEEE Spectrum. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
^Zhou, Bin; Shen, Shaoxiang; Ji, Yicai; Lu, Wei; Zhang, Feng; Fang, Guangyou; Su, Yan; Dai, Shun (2016). The subsurface penetrating radar on the rover of China's Mars 2020 mission. 2016 16th International Conference on Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR). Hong Kong, China. pp. 1–4. doi:10.1109/ICGPR.2016.7572700. S2CID 306903.
^Jones, Andrew (22 July 2020). "China raises the stakes with second Mars attempt". SpaceNews. Retrieved 1 July 2021.
^火星之后我们会去哪里？| 《火星来了》第三季第⑨集 (in Chinese). China National Space Administration. 11 June 2021. Retrieved 11 June 2021 – via Bilibili.
^Yu, Zhanyi (14 July 2021). Li, Yusu (ed.). "专访天问一号火星环绕器总体主任设计师：未来将把火星表面样品带回地球" (in Chinese). China News Service. Retrieved 21 July 2021.
Launches are separated by dots ( • ), payloads by commas ( , ), multiple names for the same satellite by slashes ( / ). Cubesats are smaller. Crewed flights are bolded. Launch failures are marked with the † sign. Payloads deployed from other spacecraft are (enclosed in brackets).