Just a few months after NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on the Red Planet, China’s spacecraft Tianwen-1 made history and made China the second nation to land on Mars after the US. According to state-owned CCTV (China Central Television), the spacecraft touched down on Utopia Planitia, a region on the north hemisphere of Mars at 7 AM GST on Saturday.

Also read: “I’m safe on Mars”: NASA Perseverance survives edge-of-seat landing to touch down on Mars


In July 2020, China launched the Tianwen-1 spacecraft successfully and had reached the pre-determined orbit. The spacecraft was launched on the Long March 5 rocket from Wenchang. Long March 5 was recently in news as another rocket of the same name had fallen uncontrollably near Maldives after weeks of speculation and rising panic.


The Tianwen-1 mission’s priority is to assess and make notes on Mars’ geology. It consists of a 530-pound robotic rover that is equipped with a weather station, a magnetic field detector 2 cameras and Ground-penetrating radar. The Tianwen-1’s orbiter will work in tandem with the rover and is carrying along with it 2 cameras another penetrating radar and a high-powered spectrometer to understand the geological landscape of the planet.

China’s history with Mars missions

Earlier in 2011, China had already launched another Mars orbiter mission by the name of Yinghuo-1 which was launched on a Ukrainian rocket called the Zenit. Unfortunately, the mission was not successful and its design failure left it stranded above the Earth. The orbiter made a splash-landing on the Pacific Ocean in 2012 before disintegrating all over it.

With Tianwen-1 China also attempted the first Rover landing on the Red Planet. This feat was only on the name one country in the world prior to China, the US. So far Mars has seen several missions failing and the surface of the planet is filled with the remains of spacecrafts made by USSR and USA.

Tianwen-1 Landing Recap

The Tianwen-1 lander circled the Mars and landed on the Red Planet after over 3 months of orbit circling. The spacecraft with the rover attached separated from the orbiter and initiated its descent towards the Mars’ surface. After entering the atmosphere of the Red Planet, the spacecraft survived the “7 minutes of terrors” that most rovers have experienced during their attempts to land on Mars.

After the 7 minutes of terror, the communication with the spacecraft was found again and the Chinese command centre saw how the spacecraft plunged through the Mars’ atmosphere while being protected with a heat shield.

The next phase of the descend was the initiation of parachute which helped the spacecraft to float down to the pre-determined Martian region called the Utopia Planitia.

In the last phase, the spacecraft fired its tiny downward-facing rockets so that the descend speed is slowed down and ultimately the soft landing was achieved.

Tianwen-1 mission and purpose

The Tianwen-1’s rover is planned to carry out the pre-mission tasks of imaging and inspections before it actually starts to roam around the planet.  The Zhurong after the completion of the tasks will get down the lander and will drive out with the help of a foldable ramp.

After its deployed, the Zhurong will be spending a minimum of 90 days and will drive around the planet to study its composition. The rover will also look for water ice as the region where it landed is assumed to contain a large amount of water ice beneath the surface.

This is the first interplanetary mission by China as so far, the country’s spacecraft haven’t ventured successfully beyond Moon. The country has already landed its 2 rovers on the Moon and had brought back rocks from Moon in December 2020. The country’s next major mission is sample-return mission in 2028 in which it will bring back sample from the Red Planet.

China is also working on building an entirely new space station that will orbit the planet. The first module of the planet was launched in April.

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