Beijing has its eyes on Mars.
China will try to land on the surface of Mars, in the next few hours, a small remote-controlled robot, Zhurong, which should make it possible to analyze the surface of the red planet.
A particularly delicate operation which bears witness to Beijing's increasingly daring space ambitions.
In the midst of diplomatic and technological rivalry with the United States, the Asian giant launched the Tianwen-1 probe to Mars last July.
The craft took seven months to cover the 55 million kilometers that separated it from the Red Planet - 1,400 times around the world.
The Zhurong rover of the Chinese space agency is expected to land on Mars tonight at 1:00 (Paris time)!
- Ufotinik (@ufotinik) May 14, 2021
The probe, which arrived in Mars orbit in February, is made up of three elements, including a lander which should land in the coming days, if not the next hours.
It is in this lander that Zhurong is located, named after the god of fire in Chinese mythology.
A laborious mission
The Chinese space agency (CNSA) initially mentioned a possible window between mid-May and mid-June.
On Friday, she said in a short statement that the landing should take place "between the early morning of May 15 and May 19", that is to say between Saturday and Wednesday Chinese time.
Speculation was high in China after a prominent space flight specialist announced that the unmanned robot would hit Mars on Saturday morning.
Ye Peijian, head of the lunar exploration program, plans the landing of the module at 7:11 a.m. Saturday, Beijing time (
, 1:11 a.m. Paris time), according to comments reported by the media and held Thursday at a conference.
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Zhurong is supposed to be operational for three months.
In the event of a successful landing, it should make it possible to study the environment of Mars and analyze the composition of the rocks.
But landing on the Red Planet is particularly complicated, and several European, Soviet and American missions have failed in the past.
The Tianwen-1 mission sent its first image of Mars in February: a black and white photo showing landforms like the Schiaparelli crater and the Valles Marineris canyon system. Lands soon within Zhurong's reach.