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Humanity’s Exploration of Mars Is Continuing Right Along

Sept. 2, 2021 (EIRNS)—While Chinese taikonauts are scheduled to address schoolchildren across China today from its new space station, on such topics as “Ocean of Stars Are Always Where We Are Headed,” China’s space agency, CNSA, announced this week that after 100 days of joint operation on Mars, its Zhurong rover and Tianwen-1 orbiter companion remain “in good condition and are functioning properly” in their exploration of the red planet. Zhurong completed its original 90-sol [Mars day] mission on Aug. 15, with its six scientific instruments working well, CNSA reported, with Zhurong relaying 10 gigabytes of raw science data through Tianwen-1 over that time, Space.com’s Andrew Jones reported on Aug. 20. To celebrate completion of Zhurong’s original mission, China released new Mars pictures it had taken.

The Tianwen 1 orbiter has been passing over Zhurong’s position once a day to pick up and relay its data back to Earth, but CNSA teams are currently working on an orbit which will allow it to both begin a global survey of Mars with its own seven science payloads, while still assisting Zhurong. The shifting of its orbit would be executed sometime after Oct. 14.

The second of the new Mars exploration missions undertaken in 2021, the United States’ Ingenuity helicopter and Perseverance rover team, is also working away. Today, NASA received confirmation that Perseverance’s second rock-drilling attempt succeeded in collecting a core sample, now stored away for an eventual return flight back to Earth. The first attempt “failed” when the rusty rock chosen crumbled upon being drilled. NASA scientists, although disappointed at the time, explained that they gained a sterile container of the Martian atmosphere out of the experiment, as well as getting an idea of the parameters required for drilling to work.

Ingenuity, whose original mission was simply to test its engineering and capabilities with five flights, has now flown 12 missions, and proven itself a valuable tool for advanced exploring of possible terrain for Perseverance to cross or explore. Today’s New York Times cited the example given by Kenneth A. Farley, a geochemistry professor, who is the project scientist for Perseverance, of one site that orbital images conveyed might be striking, until “we looked at the helicopter images.... We will save a bunch of time by not driving over there,” Farley said.

The third of the Mars exploration missions to start operations in 2021, the United Arab Emirates’ orbital probe, Hope, has also been mapping Mars’ atmospheric weather since successfully entering its orbit last February. The Emirates Mars Mission team reported this August that it has been checking and validating data received, and it will release the first science data from the mission globally with no embargo in October.

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