Geeking Science: Chinese Missions

CHINA’S ZHURONG MARS ROVER China’s first Mars rover, Zhurong, is pictured next to its landing platform on the surface of the red planet. The rover traveled approximately 10 meters to drop off a wireless camera, then backed up into frame in order to capture this spectacular image. Image: CNSA

Of course the Chinese know how to have their robots take great selfies. Just look how cute the Zhurong is beside its buddy lander. Hi there Zhurong, I hope you have great fun on Mars, or Huoxing (the planet of fire) as you like to call it.

So the Chinese space learning curve has kicked in with successful missions piling up and more planned, each leading and building to the next as a proper space (race) nation should be. Third nation to return samples from the moon, second to land a rover on Mars. Give them time and they might be the first to send back images from Alpha Centauri.

The moon mission returned a new mineral. (Andrew, Tianwen, Sept 15, 2022)

And they packed so much into that little moon mission. Instead of a simple drop and return, they made a in-space reconnect of the sample and orbiter to practice doing the same for a Mars sample return. If they are successful with the Mars sample return on the present ambitious schedule (out and back by July 2031), they will be the first nation ever to do it. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have similar plans in works, but their calendar is looking two years beyond that.

After returning the samples to Earth, the Chang’e-5 visited the Sun-Earth Lagrange point 1 for some solar observations, then moved back to the moon for some Distant Retrograde Orbit tests. Both of these additional missions are tests and information gathering for future missions. (The Planetary Society, 2022)

Never do just one thing when you can do twenty – am I right?

This is the way of space missions now. Anything getting out of orbit is carrying a lot of CubeSats for nations and for corporations, as well as the main payload.

Can’t wait to see what all China will pack into their Huoxing (Mars) mission. And it will be fun to see what NASA and the ESA do to try to keep up. At least, some of the new space race (to Mars) will involve flying drones.

I know there will be more robot selfies. Looking fine Zhurong. I’m sure your siblings will look as great as Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, and Perseverance have over the years. I’m geeking humanity’s joint exploration of the solar system and the stars.


Jones, Andrew. “China discovers new moon mineral in lunar samples.” September 12, 2022. – last viewed 12/17/2022.

Jones. Andrew. “Tianwen-3: China’s Mars sample return mission.” The Planetary Society. September 15, 2022. – last viewed 12/17/2022.

The Planetary Society. “Chang’e-5: China’s Moon sample return mission.” (undated). – last viewed 12/17/2022.

Xinhua. “China’s first Mars rover starts exploring red planet.” May 22, 2021. – last viewed 12/17/2022.