China’s Mars mission, Tianwen-1, made history on May 14, 2021, when its Zhurong rover touched down on the Red Planet’s surface, becoming the first successful Mars mission by a Chinese spacecraft. Since its landing, Zhurong has been exploring the planet’s surface and transmitting data back to Earth. One of the significant discoveries made by the rover is the signs of water on Mars, which have potential implications for future exploration and colonization of the planet.
The Zhurong rover has been exploring the Utopia Planitia region of Mars, an area known to have abundant ice deposits. Scientists believe that this region may have once been covered by an ocean, making it an ideal location to search for signs of past or present water. The rover is equipped with several scientific instruments, including a ground-penetrating radar, a multispectral camera, and a meteorological sensor, which have enabled it to gather detailed data on the planet’s geology, atmosphere, and weather conditions.
One of the primary objectives of the mission was to search for signs of water on Mars, and the Zhurong rover has already made several significant discoveries in this regard. In late July, the rover detected a subsurface layer of water ice while using its ground-penetrating radar. The layer is estimated to be about 90 to 150 cm thick and located around two meters beneath the surface. This finding was confirmed by data from the rover’s multispectral camera, which detected a bright patch on the surface that could be water ice.
The detection of subsurface water ice is a significant discovery as it has implications for future human missions to Mars. Water is a crucial resource for human survival, and the presence of water ice on the planet could make it easier to establish a human colony on Mars. Water ice can be melted and purified for drinking, used to grow plants, and even broken down into oxygen and hydrogen for rocket fuel.
In addition to the subsurface water ice, the Zhurong rover has also detected signs of water in the form of vapor in the planet’s atmosphere. The rover’s meteorological sensor detected a spike in humidity levels in the early morning, which scientists believe could be due to the presence of water vapor. This finding is consistent with previous observations by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which detected seasonal fluctuations in atmospheric humidity levels.
The discovery of water vapor in the atmosphere is also significant as it has implications for the planet’s past and present climate. Mars is known to have a thin atmosphere, and the presence of water vapor could help explain the planet’s complex climate history. Scientists believe that Mars may have once had a thick atmosphere, similar to Earth’s, but lost most of it over time due to the planet’s weak gravity and lack of a protective magnetic field. The detection of water vapor in the atmosphere could provide clues about the planet’s past climate and help scientists better understand how the planet’s atmosphere evolved over time.
The Zhurong rover’s discoveries have been a significant milestone for China’s space program, which has been rapidly expanding in recent years. The successful Mars mission has demonstrated China’s growing capabilities in space exploration and research and could pave the way for future collaborations with other space agencies, including NASA and the European Space Agency.
The discovery of signs of water on Mars by China’s Zhurong rover is a significant achievement in space exploration. The detection of subsurface water ice and water vapor in the atmosphere has important implications for future human missions to the Red Planet and could help scientists better understand the planet’s climate and geology. The Zhurong rover’s findings have demonstrated China’s growing capabilities in space exploration and research and could pave the way for future collaborations with other space agencies.