China’s space agency has released the first photos taken by the Zhurong rover on Mars, showing parts of its lander and the red planet itself. The Tianwen-1 mission arrived at its destination on May 15th, making China the second nation to successfully soft-land on Mars after the US. One of the photos is a colored image (above) taken by the navigation camera mounted at the rear of the rover. It features Zhurong’s solar panels and unfolded antennae, along with a view of the planet’s red soil and rocks.
The other photo (below) is a black-and-white image taken by an obstacle avoidance camera installed in front of the rover. It was captured using a wide-angle lens, so it not only shows a ramp from the lander extending to the surface of the planet, but also the Martian horizon. In addition to the two images, the mission probe sent back a video that shows how the lander and the rover separated from the orbiter during landing.
NASA Administrator Sen. Bill Nelson congratulated China’s space agency in a statement:
“Congratulations to the China National Space Administration on receiving the first images from the Zhurong Mars rover! As the international scientific community of robotic explorers on Mars grows, the United States and the world look forward to the discoveries Zhurong will make to advance humanity’s knowledge of the Red Planet. I look forward to future international discoveries, which will help inform and develop the capabilities needed to land human boots on Mars.”
On May 21st or the 22nd, Zhurong will make its way down the ramps you see in the black-and-white photo to join NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance on the surface. It will explore a part of the planet called Utopia Planitia, using its six instruments to study the region’s geology and climate.
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