At 1.85 meters (6 feet) in height, Zhurong is significantly smaller than the US’s Perseverance rover which is exploring the planet with a tiny helicopter. NASA expects its rover to collect its first sample in July for return to Earth as early as 2031.
In addition to the Mars mission, China’s ambitious space program plans to send the first crew to its new space station next week. The three crew members plan to stay for three months on the Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony, station, far exceeding the length of any previous Chinese mission. They will perform spacewalks, construction and maintenance work and carry out science experiments.
Subsequent launches are planned to expand the station, send up supplies and exchange crews. China has also has brought back lunar samples, the first by any country’s space programme since the 1970s, landed a probe and rover on the moon’s less explored far side.