China shares striking first pictures and video from Mars rover landing
China has released the first video and images from its Mars rover after it touched down on the planet earlier this week.
The rover, Zhurong, landed on a plain called Utopia Planitia at the weekend as part of China’s Tianwen-1 mission, which launched last year.
Black and white pictures reveal Zhurong’s view out onto the flat, dusty plain, while a colour shot shows off the rover’s solar arrays.
If you look closely at the black and white image, you can see the ramps the rover will use to leave its landing capsule. This milestone is expected to take place Friday or Saturday.
A short video gives a glimpse of the probe’s terrifying descent to the planet’s surface through the thin atmosphere on Mars. The ten-second clip was taken as its landing capsule separated from the mission’s orbiter.
Zhurong is expected to rove the surface of Mars for 92 days. The 240kg solar-powered robot has six scientific instruments it will use to study planet’s geology and climate.
The Tianwen-1 mission is made up of the rover, orbiter and lander. All-in-all, it’s equipped with 14 scientific payloads to investigate Mars’ morphology, geology, mineralogy, space environment, and soil and water-ice distribution.
Tianwen-1’s mission scientists say it will offer the most comprehensive study of these elements ever.
China is only the third country to touch down on Mars. Its rover joins Nasa’s Curiosity and Perseverence, which have been traversing the planet since 2012 and 2021, respectively.
Nasa recently flew a small helicopter on Mars for the first time as part of Perseverence’s mission. The chopper — Ingenuity — travelled to the Red Planet in the rover’s belly.
The European Space Agency (ESA) and Russian space agency Roscosmos also want to land a rover on Mars, but their mission was delayed last March to allow more time for testing.
A lander and a rover named after English chemist Rosalind Franklin are slated to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in September 2022 as part of the ‘ExoMars’ mission.
The ExoMars lander and rover will join a trace gas orbiter that launched back in 2016.
The mission will investigate whether life has ever existed on Mars.
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