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Mars mission inspires growing fan base back in China – Toronto Star



BEIJING – Cui Tingting dyed her hair Mars red for the arrival of China’s spacecraft at the planet known in Chinese as the Fire Star.

“This is a great era for space, and the future of mankind lies in the exploration of outer space,” said Cui, director of the China Mars Society, the local chapter of a global advocacy network. She hosted an online party Wednesday night to wait for the announcement that the Tianwen-1 spacecraft, launched last July, had reached Mars orbit.

Video from participants across China showed a replica of Tianwen-1’s robot rover in the home of one society member. One wore a homemade space suit; another controlled his robot dog.

“Earth is our mother planet … but for me, Mars is the same,” Cui said.

China is falling in love with space, inspired by the ruling Communist Party’s increasingly ambitious plans over the past two decades to launch humans into orbit and explore the moon and Mars.

Tourists flock to tropical Hainan island to watch rockets blast off. Others visit mock Mars colonies in desert sites with white domes, airlocks and spacesuits. The number of space-themed TV shows, books and fan clubs is growing.

The most popular space-themed account on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblog service, “Our Space,” has 1.25 million followers.

The expanding space program coincides with President Xi Jinping’s campaign to promote an image of China returning to its former glory as a world leader.

“It’s a symbol of power for China,” said Chen Qiufan, a science fiction author in Guangdong whose books include “Waste Tide.”

Xi’s government is trying to nurture public enthusiasm with a five-year Scientific Literacy Action Plan. It includes a promise of support for developing Chinese science fiction.

In November, the city government of Beijing announced plans to build a science fiction industry cluster area to attract talent and create “influential original science fiction works.”

“You have to leverage the power of films, movies and science fiction to broadcast propaganda and this idea: we need to go there,” said Chen, comparing it to the Renaissance.

That love affair also is catching on in Japan, India and other countries that are sending probes across the solar system, joining a club of explorers long dominated by Washington and Moscow.

The race to explore Mars is so crowded that Tianwen-1 isn’t even the only spacecraft to arrive at the planet this week.

On Tuesday, Amal, a spacecraft launched by the United Arab Emirates, swung into orbit.

In the Emirates’ biggest city, Dubai, the government projected images of Mars’ two moons into the sky. Dubai’s Burj Khalifa skyscraper glowed red at night. Billboards depicting Amal, Arabic for hope, tower over Dubai’s highways.

In India, one of the country’s biggest film stars, Akshay Kumar, led a 2019 blockbuster, “Mission Mangal,” inspired by the country’s first mission to Mars.

A new collection of short stories written in a half dozen languages called “The Best of World SF” captures this global wonder, said the book’s editor, Lavie Tidhar.

In American and British sci-fi, Mars often plays the pristine utopia to Earth’s decrepit dystopia, but not so elsewhere, said Tidhar, who was raised on a kibbutz, a collectivist commune in Israel. In his novels “Martian Sands” and “Central Station,” a reborn Soviet Union, China, and Israel flourish on the bleak landscape of Mars.

“It’s boring, it’s hot, it’s cramped. A bit like growing up in a kibbutz -– except you can never leave,“ he said.

China’s first science fiction book, “City of Cats” in 1933, was set on Mars.



The genre died out during the ultra-radical 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, when the U.S.-Soviet space race inspired film studios to release “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Solaris.”

China re-embraced imaginary other worlds with the explosive success of “The Three-Body Problem” by Liu Cixin, first published as a magazine serial from 2006 to 2010. In 2015, Liu became the first Chinese author to receive the Hugo Award, science fiction’s highest honour.

A Hollywood-style blockbuster, “The Wandering Earth,” based on a novella by Liu, grossed more than $700 million worldwide in 2019.

China became the third nation to launch an astronaut into orbit on its own in 2003, four decades after the former Soviet Union and the United States.

Its first temporary orbiting laboratory was launched in 2011 and a second in 2016. Plans call for a permanent space station after 2022.

Space officials had expressed hope for a crewed lunar mission as early as this year but said that depended on budget and technology. They have pushed back that target to at least 2024.

Science fiction writers already are imaging Chinese colonies on Mars.

Hao Jingfang’s novel “Vagabonds,” published last year, is set between a poverty-free but austere Martian society and a poor, crowded, polluted Earth. Hao became the first female Chinese author to receive the Hugo Award in 2016.

Luo Lingzuo’s 2019 “Land Without Borders” imagines Chinese scientists genetically altering potatoes to grow in amber Martian soil. Physicist Liu Yang’s “Orphans of the Red Planet,” about high school students on Mars battling hostile aliens, is being turned into a TV series.

“We need to go to space,” said Chen, the science fiction author in Guangdong. “Then we have the power equivalent to what the United States has, and then we can become the giant.”

Cui, of the Mars Society, already is planning another party in May when Tianwen-1’s robot lander is due to touch down.


Associated Press researchers Caroline Chen in Beijing and Chen Si in Shanghai and writers Isabel DeBre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Krutika Pathi in New Delhi contributed to this report.

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NASA’s Perseverance Rover successfully lands on Mars – TASS



NEW YORK, February 19. /TASS/. The US Perseverance Rover has successfully touched down on Mars and sent two pictures back to Earth almost immediately, NASA reported Thursday.

“Touchdown confirmed,” the broadcast commentator said. The space agency clarified that it had already received two images from the planet.

The landing took almost “seven minutes of terror” as NASA calls it in an automatic regime due to a delay in command transmission.

“I’m safe on Mars. Perseverance will get you anywhere,” the rover ‘tweeted’ after the touchdown.

The landing was planned to take place near the Jezero Crater. A full check of Perseverance’s systems and equipment is expected shortly after.

NASA specialists seek to use the rover to detect traces of life on Mars from long ago. Perseverance will also gather rock and ground samples in 40 special containers, while most of them will be collected by another rover in 2026. NASA expects that the samples will be eventually delivered to Earth in the 2030s.

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'A small part, but it was an important part': Manitoba company helped ensure Perseverance Rover landed safely on Mars – CTV News Winnipeg



A Manitoba company helped ensure that a recent mission to Mars landed successfully.

Canadian Photonic Labs, based in Minnedosa, supplied their Mega Speed high-speed cameras to help NASA as it was preparing to launch and land the Perseverance Rover, which successfully touched down on the Red Planet last week.

The company, which launched in 1995, creates high-speed cameras that are used to capture clear images from objects travelling at high rates of speed.

“We played a small part, but it was an important part, because you have to get the data,” said Mark Wahoski, president and founder of Canadian Photonic Labs. “It’s happening so fast that the human eye can’t see it. So, you need to slow time down.”

More than 20 of the cameras are in use at SuperSonic Navel Ordinance Research Track in China Lake, California. The track, which includes a sled that can launch items at speeds past the sound barrier, is used to test advanced products from organizations such as NASA and Lockheed Martin.

(Image submitted by Mark Wahoski)

“When you’re testing these items that are so expensive, and are so complicated to do, people pay attention on what equipment is actually working,” Wahoski said.

Wahoski said the cameras were used to help NASA test its decelerator and parachute, which were used to land Perseverance safely on Mars, in the years prior to the launch.

SuperSonic Navel Ordinance Research Track

(Image submitted by Mark Wahoski)

“When you’re going to Mars, there’s a lot of complex things that need to work out besides even just getting there,” he said, noting that approximately half of all missions to Mars fail because of an incorrect landing or missing the planet altogether.

Perseverance was launched on July 30, 2020, and safely landed on Mars on Feb. 18. According to NASA, the rover is the most sophisticated rover to land on Mars, and is looking for signs of ancient life on the planet.

Wahoski said seeing Perseverance landing successfully was incredible to watch, and he is proud of his staff and the NASA engineers.

“We tend to forget about it, but when you think back on it, it’s just super, super cool,” he said. “You get super stoked.

“Where it really hits you is (that) we’ve had a lot of friends comment on it. When they wish you well, that’s when your heart goes out.”

Canadian Photonic Labs already has a new mission with NASA lined up. Wahoski said the company is providing equipment for a project involving a large vacuum chamber.

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The inspiring hidden message in the Mars Perseverance rover's parachute – CNN International



In the video, the colorful orange-and-white parachute can be seen above the rover as it helped to slow the descent of the spacecraft.
This annotated image was taken by a parachute-up-look camera on the protective back shell of the Perseverance rover during its landing on Mars.
“You might notice the pattern that’s on the parachute here,” said Allen Chen, the entry, descent and landing lead for the rover, on Monday. “Distinct patterns are useful in helping us determine the clocking orientation of the parachute. Also, the contrasting sections can be useful in tracking different portions of the parachute as it inflates.
“In addition to enabling incredible science, we hope our efforts and our engineering can inspire others. Sometimes we leave messages in our work for others to find for that purpose. So we invite you all to give it a shot and show your work.”
Eagle-eyed space fans took up Chen’s challenge and made short work of unraveling the code.
“It looks like the internet has cracked the code in something like 6 hours! Oh internet is there anything you can’t do?” tweeted Adam Steltzner, the rover’s chief engineer.
The parachute’s hidden message includes the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory motto, “Dare mighty things,” as well as GPS coordinates for JPL in Pasadena, California.
The messages were included in the parachute using binary code within the white and orange gores, or triangles of fabric. The inner part of the parachute includes “Dare mighty things,” with each word in an expanding ring of gores. The band around the parachute is where the GPS coordinates for JPL can be found.
The motto borrows from a Theodore Roosevelt quote: “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure … than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
The rover was built by the team at JPL, where the mission is managed.
Ian Clark, the rover’s systems engineer, was the mastermind behind the binary code pattern on the parachute.
“The brain child of Ian Clark- who has done anything the project asked him to do, whether it was lead, develop, and execute a supersonic parachute test program, prove the cleanliness of the sampling system, or support EDL operations. All around sharp and selfless dude,” Chen tweeted.
It’s not the first Easter egg to be included with the Perseverance rover, and the mission team has suggested that more will be revealed in images returned by the rover in the future.
The rover carries silicon chips containing the names of nearly 11 million people who participated in the “Send Your Name to Mars” campaign, as well as 155 essays submitted by students who entered a contest to name the rover. Perseverance also has a metal plate as a tribute to health care workers during the pandemic.
A placard commemorating NASA's "Send Your Name to Mars" campaign is on the rover.A placard commemorating NASA's "Send Your Name to Mars" campaign is on the rover.
On the rover’s deck is a symbol-laden calibration target for Mastcam-Z, or the rover’s pair of zoomable cameras. The calibration target includes color swatches to adjust the cameras’ settings, but also symbols of a man and a woman, a fern, a dinosaur, a rocket traveling from Earth to Mars, a model of the inner solar system, DNA and cyanobacteria, which is one of the earliest forms of life on Earth.
The target also includes the motto, “Two worlds, one beginning,” which alludes to the idea that Earth and Mars were created from the same dust swirling around the sun billions of years ago.
The Mastcam-Z's calibration target includes different symbols.The Mastcam-Z's calibration target includes different symbols.
The calibration target for the SHERLOC instrument, or Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals, also carries some hidden gems.
The bottom row includes spacesuit materials to see how they react over time to the radiation in the Martian atmosphere. One is a piece of polycarbonate that could be used for a helmet visor. It doubles as a geocaching target and is etched with 221B Baker Street, the address of the beloved fictional detective Sherlock Holmes.
SHERLOC's calibration target carries some Easter eggs as well.SHERLOC's calibration target carries some Easter eggs as well.
The top row, which will be used to fine-tune settings on the instrument, includes a slice of Martian meteorite.
Perseverance’s fellow rover Curiosity also carries its share of Easter eggs. When the rover began to explore the Martian surface in August 2012, it left zigzagging patterns in the red dust based on the tread of its aluminum wheels.
Embedded in those treads are tiny dots, which create a repeating pattern the rover uses to drive more accurately. The dot pattern is actually Morse code for JPL. So with every roll of the wheel across Mars, Curiosity is stamping “JPL” into the surface of the red planet.

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