Chinese Rover Landed on Mars
Zhurong, which landed on Mars a week earlier on May 14, drove onto the Martian surface from its landing platform at 10:40 p.m. EDT on Friday (10:40 a.m. Saturday, May 22 Beijing Time). The remote-controlled rover drove down the ramp of a landing capsule on Saturday and onto the surface of the Red Planet. This action made China the first nation to orbit, land and deploy a land vehicle on its inaugural mission to Mars.
The rover is called Zhurong, after a mythical Chinese god of fire. The former Soviet Union landed a craft in 1971, but it lost communication seconds later.
The 240 kg Zhurong rover will study the planet’s surface soil and atmosphere with its six scientific instruments, including a high-resolution topography camera. The rower is powered with solar energy. The rower will search for signs of ancient life. It is expected to spend the next 90 Martian days (called sols) mapping the area, searching for signs of water ice, monitoring weather and studying the surface composition.
The Tianwen-1 spacecraft, meanwhile, is expected to study Mars for at least a full Martian year, about 687 Earth days.
The rover was sent in space in July 2020. After more than six months in transit, Tianwen-1 reached Mars in February, where it had been in orbit since.
On May 15, the landing capsule carrying the rover separated from Tianwen-1. It touched down on a vast plain known as Utopia Planitia.
Perseverance and Zhurong are among three robotic rovers operating on Mars. The third is NASA’s Curiosity, which landed in 2012.
Photos from Zhurong released by the China National Space Administration show views from the rover’s navigation cameras. The rover is still atop its lander in one image and looking down at the twin ramps it took to roll onto the Martian surface. A second photo looks back at Zhurong’s three-legged lander, which delivered the rover to the Martian surface last week.