From currency war, to trade war, to tech war, to climate war, and now to space war, the superpower rivalry between the US and China continues to flare up with Beijing expected to land its rover on the red planet today.
CNET reports that the China National Space Administration’s (CNSA) spacecraft, which has been orbiting Mars since February, is expected to enter the Martian atmosphere at 7:11 p.m. ET. CNET cites multiple Twitter accounts that monitor China’s space programs, though we must point out CNSA has yet to confirm the timing.
The spacecraft is expected to descend into the atmosphere for approximately seven minutes. Then deploy a parachute with a lander and rover.
The rover, called Zhurong, will be China’s first attempt to probe the surface of the Red Planet in an ambitious mission called “Tianwen-1” which was first launched in July 2020.
If all goes well this evening, the lander will smoothly touch down and will later deploy a 530-pound, solar-powered rover ready to explore the surface for water ice. The mission will allow China to map out the surface of Mars and prepare for future flights where it can send a spacecraft to the planet and return rocks or dirt to Earth.
Zhurong is set to explore Utopia Planitia for 90 Martian days, according to the Tianwen-1 team.
Meanwhile, NASA landed the Mars Perseverance rover in February, searched for signs of ancient life, and collected rock samples for a possible return to Earth. The rover also launched a helicopter called Ingenuity, which has flown five flights, taking off vertically, hovering, and landing.
The US and China have taken an interest in Mars because it is packed with rare metals, including lithium, cobalt, nickel, copper, zinc, niobium, molybdenum, lanthanum, europium, tungsten, and gold, essential minerals that will power the economy of tomorrow.