Tianwen-1: China's Mars mission discussed by expert
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The Chinese rover was deployed on the Red Planet’s surface on May 22 this year, after spending more than nine months in space. The Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) has now shared new images snapped by Zhurong, including a full-body self-portrait. Unlike NASA’s Perseverance rover, which can take 36-degree selfies using one of its robotic arms, Zhurong had to rely on a wireless camera.
The rover drove forward a short distance and deployed the device on the ground before backing up until it was in frame.
The result is a “family portrait” of the Chinese rover and the rocket-powered lander that brought Zhurong to the planet’s surface.
Scientists and spaceflight enthusiasts all across the globe reacted to the new images with glee and excitement.
Paul Byrne, an Associate Professor of Planetary Science at North Carolina State University, tweeted: “The Chinese rover #Zhurong carried a small wireless camera that it placed on the ground to take a group photo. Look at the rover’s little face.”
Andy Saunders, the author of the upcoming book Apollo Remastered, said: “This is not an artist’s impression!
“It’s a photograph on #Mars just unveiled by the China National Space Agency of the Zhurong rover and its landing platform. A great family portrait.”
Another photo shared by the CNSA features just the lander with a Chinese flag mounted to the right of a ramp Zhurong descended last month.
You can see the marks in the rusty-brown Martian dust where the rover drove off.
Corey S. Powell, a science writer and podcaster, said: “China’s #Zhurong rover took a look back at its path onto the surface of Mars.
“Just started driving, and it’s already doing doughnuts in the Martian dust.”
Zhurong touched down on the Red Planet on May 14 this year but did not descend from the lander until May 22.
China became the only second nation after the US to successfully deploy and operate a rover on Mars.
To date, NASA has landed the Soujourner, Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity and Perseverance rovers, with the latter landing on February 18, 2021.
Thomas Burghardt, a NASASpaceflight reporter, tweeted: “Not only is Mars inhabited solely by robots, the robots are now from multiple Earth nations.”
Earlier this week a US satellite managed to snap a picture of the Chinese rover from orbit.
The photo was taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and shows Zhurong just feet away from its landing site.
The 530-pound (240kg) rover touched down in the planet’s Utopia Planitia region where it will study rocks and the weather.
The rover’s mission is pencilled in for at least 90 days, although as past missions have proven, rovers tend to carry on working for years past their sell-by date.
The CNSA has also shared pictures of the rover from orbit, taken by its Tianwen-1 orbiter.
The black-and-white feature two bright spots in the top-right corner – Zhurong and the lander.
The CNSA said: “The dark area surrounding the landing platform might be caused by the influence of the engine plume during landing.
“The symmetrical bright stripes in the north-south direction of the landing platform might be from fine dust when the landing platform emptied the remaining fuel after landing.”
Another bright spot in the centre of the image may be the back cover and parachute of the rover’s entry capsule.
Another bright object in the lower left appears to be the capsule’s protective heat shield.
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