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Interview: China’s Mars mission paves way for more capable missions, says Australian space scientist

Abstract : An Australian space scientist applauded the successful landing of China's rover on Mars, saying this will pave the way for more capable mission in the future and help scientists have a clearer picture of the red planet.

SYDNEY, May 18 (Xinhua) — An Australian space scientist applauded the successful landing of China’s rover on Mars, saying this will pave the way for more capable mission in the future and help scientists have a clearer picture of the red planet.

“I think this is a extremely exciting achievement from the Chinese space agency, and the goals of this mission reflect the goals of the international planetary science community,” said Dr. David Flannery of Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in an interview with Xinhua.

As a member of the NASA Mars 2020 Mission Science Team, Flannery said it is technically an extremely difficult thing to land the rover on the Mars as a number of technological hurdles needed to be overcome.

“You have to land the object onto the Mars’ surface softly and safely. That involves, in this case, numerous landing systems,” said Flannery. “Then you have the challenge of communicating with your rover, which performs lots of different activities on the surface.”

“And so all of these communication and navigation technologies really need to be developed during this mission in order for more capable missions to come in the future,” said the space scientist.

“In some sense, this mission is a technology demonstration that will pave the way for much more capable missions in the future,” he said.

Consisting of an orbiter, a lander and a rover, China’s Tianwen-1 probe was launched in July last year and successfully touched down on the northern hemisphere of Mars on May 15. The rover Zhurong is expected to drive to the surface of Mars and make more scientific discoveries.

Flannery said the rover has a couple of really exciting measurement capabilities, including laser induced breakdown spectroscopy, which essentially allows researchers to fire a laser at a rock and analyze the chemistry of that rock from several meters away without putting the rover in danger by driving it up to the rock and deploying instruments.

There’s also a magnetometer on the rover, which will help researchers better understand the magnetic field of Mars that has changed over time. There’s a ground penetrating radar, which will help researchers correlate the rock formations that they can see above the surface into the subsurface.

Describing it a “very ambitious science mission”, Flannery said the mission would help scientists have a better understanding of the red planet and facilitate more international cooperation in the future.

“When Mars more closely resembled the earth many billions of years ago, Mars was a much warmer, much wetter and more habitable environment than it is today. And so this is a mission that can help us address some of those really big questions. What was Mars like in the distant past? And did life ever evolve there?” he said.

“I think the more science we can get done, the more space agencies involved, the more information we’ll have, the more landing sites we will study and the clearer picture we’ll have about Mars both past and present. I really think it’s important that we cooperate together internationally,” said Flannery. Enditem

About Xinhua Silk Road

Xinhua Silk Road (en.imsilkroad.com) is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) portal. China’s silk road economic belt and the 21st century maritime silk road website, include BRI Policy, BRI Trade, BRI Investment, Belt and Road weekly, Know Belt and Road, and the integrated information services for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Source: Interview: China’s Mars mission paves way for more capable missions, says Australian space scientist

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