China is set to land on Mars for the first time
Sometime between tonight and next Wednesday, China will attempt to land a pair of robots on the surface of Mars, making a daring bid to become the second country to land and operate a rover on the Red Planet. The Tianwen-1 spacecraft, which has been orbiting Mars since February, will eject a rover and lander bundled together for a seven-minute plunge through the thin Martian atmosphere.
The mission marks China’s first independent trek to Mars, about 200 million miles away from Earth. Only NASA has successfully managed to land and operate rovers on the planet in the past. (The Soviet Union’s Mars 3 spacecraft landed on the planet in 1971 and communicated for about 20 seconds before unexpectedly going dark.) China’s mission, involving…