The Zhurong rover, whose name translates to “god of fire,” used a detachable wireless camera to capture an intelligent image of itself and its landing platform on the surface of Mars.
It’s small compared to NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance rovers, but the six-wheel Zhurong is a big investment for China as it is the country’s first mission to explore the Red Planet. China’s National Space Administration released a range of images in commemoration of the mission, as reported by state-owned Xinhua.
The 240’s rover landed on Martian soil on May 14th and left the landing pad on May 22nd. Zhurong is exploring Utopia Planitia – a plain last visited by NASA’s Viking Lander 2 in 1976.
To take the selfie, the rover placed a wireless camera on the dusty surface, backed up about 10 meters and struck a pose, as Nature reports. The image shows Zhurong with its mast proudly extended, along with the rocket-powered platform that took the rover to the surface. Chinese flags can be seen on both vehicles.
Other images include a 360-degree panoramic view of the landing site, a photo of the isolated landing pad (along with the wheel tracks at the base of the extended ramp), and an unobstructed image showing the current environment around Zhurong.
Zhurong’s mission is expected to last 90 suns, or Martian days, during which he will track the weather, study geology, and take on other roles as a remote planetary scientist. The rover has a laser tool to analyze rocks and radar to “sniff out” ice water beneath the surface of Mars. Interesting features of Utopia Planitia include sand dune-like structures, potential frost and the remnant of an ancient lava or mud volcano.
Earlier this week, China’s space agency released new images of Mars taken by its Tianwen-1 probe. A high-resolution image taken on June 2 shows Zhurong and the landing platform on the surface, along with a dark stain caused by the spacecraft’s retro-rockets. The Tianwen-1 orbiter, which launched together with Zhurong on July 23, 2020, will spend a full Martian year, or 687 Earth days, relaying communications to the rover and conducting its own scientific work.
Zhurong is one of three rovers currently working on the Red Planet, the others are NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance (NASA’s InSight spacecraft is also active on Mars, but is immobile).
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