HONG KONG – China on Friday unveiled new photos of its Martian rover exploring the surface of the Red Planet, with state media hailing it as a sign of the mission’s “complete success”.
The Zhurong rover, named after a fire god in Chinese mythology, landed in the Mars Utopia Planitia region on May 15. This is the first Chinese mission to Mars, making it the second country to land a rover on the planet, after the States.
The rover returned its first images of Mars in May, several days after landing, showing a ramp deployed and the flat landscape where it arrived.
The new photos this Friday included a 360-degree panorama of the landing zone, stitched together from a number of images taken by the rover after landing before starting to cross the zone, according to the agency. Xinhua official press release. Another image showed the orange Martian surface, with scattered rocks, a circular crater on the other side, and dunes in the distance.
A third image shows the Chinese flag near the landing pad. The rover also took a selfie using a wireless camera, showing its extended solar panels and a tiny Chinese flag emblazoned with its gear.
The six-wheeled solar rover is intended to last for three months, during which it will look for signs or evidence of ancient life on the surface of Mars. While the rover explores the planet, its orbiter also conducts scientific detection operations.
“China will release the related scientific data in due course to enable humanity to share the fruits of the development of the country’s space exploration,” said Zhang Kejian, head of China’s national space agency, in the report. Xinhua.
The Chinese mission to Mars managed to enter the orbit of the planet and land a rover that could cross the Martian surface in one go. It took several missions for NASA to get through these difficult stages, albeit decades before China, between 1971 and 1997.
China launched its Tianwen-1 probe, carrying Zhurong and other equipment, last July, along with two other international missions to Mars: NASA’s Perseverance rover and the United Arab Emirates’ Hope Probe.
All three missions were launched at around the same time due to alignment between Mars and Earth on the same side of the sun, allowing for more efficient travel to the Red Planet.
While Zhurong is not as technologically advanced as NASA’s Perseverance, which also currently roams Mars, its presence sends a clear signal that China’s space capabilities are catching up with those of the United States.
Chinese astronauts have long been excluded from the International Space Station – and one of the country’s ambitions is to build its own space station. In April, it took a further step towards this goal, successfully launching the first module of the planned installation.
The central module is currently the largest spacecraft developed by China. But the station will have to be assembled from several modules launching at different times; the station could be fully operational by the end of 2022, according to Chinese state media. – CNN