On May 14, with its Tianwen-1 mission, becoming the second country to land a rover on our neighboring planet. The Zhurong rover now joins the handful of American rovers — Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, and the current Perseverance mission — already on the Red Planet. This historic event follows right on the tails of another nation’s first success: the United Arab Emirates’s first interplanetary spacecraft, a , which .
The Zhurong rover is about 500 pounds (the weight of a male black bear), much smaller than the newer, heftier NASA rovers. Zhurong is powered by solar panels and expected to operate for only about although other rovers have lasted far longer than their planned missions. It’s accompanied by the Tianwen-1 orbiter, which released its lander down onto the Martian surface and now serves as a communications relay. The orbiter will survey the surface and report to the lander where it should investigate further, while the rover .
The Tianwen-1 lander, carrying the Zhurong rover, touched down in , a region also visited by the . This is a particularly interesting region for the search for life, since . The rover is equipped with cameras, ground penetrating radar, a spectrometer, and even a — the first on a Martian rover. Measuring the Martian magnetic field might clue scientists in as to why Mars lost its atmosphere billions of years ago, making it the uninhabitable place it is today.