Chinese Zhurong rover sends new images of Mars back to Earth

The rover is in an area called Utopia Planitia, searching for signs of water or ice

Adam Smith@adamndsmith
Friday 11 June 2021 15:52
Leer en Español

China has released four new photos from its Zhurong rover on Mars, showing the craft and a lander bearing small national flags.

The CNSA said Zhurong placed a remote camera about 10 metres (33ft) from the landing platform before withdrawing to take a selfie.

The CNSA landed the Tianwen-1 spacecraft carrying the rover on Mars last month after it spent about three months orbiting the red planet. China is the second country to land and operate a spacecraft on Mars, after the United States.

The orbiter and lander both display small Chinese flags, and the lander bears outlines of the mascots for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

The six-wheeled rover is surveying an area known as Utopia Planitia, searching for signs of water or ice that could lend clues as to whether Mars ever sustained life.

At 182cm in height, Zhurong is significantly smaller than the US’s Perseverance rover, which is exploring the planet with a tiny helicopter.

Nasa expects its rover to collect its first sample in July for return to Earth as early as 2031.In addition to the Mars mission, China’s ambitious space programme plans to send the first crew to its new space station next week.

The three crew members plan to stay for three months on the Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony, station, far exceeding the length of any previous Chinese mission.

They will perform spacewalks, construction and maintenance work and carry out science experiments. Subsequent launches are planned to expand the station, send supplies and exchange crews.

China has also has brought back lunar samples, the first by any country’s space programme since the 1970s, and landed a probe and rover on the moon’s less explored far side.

In April, Nasa’s Curiosity rover sent back its own selfie from the surface of Mars. The rover took three photos: a charming image of itself, and two panoramas that let people see a 3D view of the Red Planet.

The panorama was shot approximately 40 meters from the outcrop, with the rover moving to the side and shooting another from the same distance – creating an image similar to a 3D viewfinder – that should help scientists get a better idea of Martian geometry and the mount’s sedimentary layers.

Additional reporting by AP

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments