FP TrendingMay 20, 2021 14:16:37 IST
China’s rover Zhurong has captured and sent us its first image of Mars and they have been released by the China National Space Administration (CNSA). The rover landed on Mars on Sunday, 16 May and the image shows the red Martian surface and solar panels of the rover. Another image was also released but in black and white and it shows a ramp coming out from the lander and extending to the Martian surface. Along with the pictures, the Chinese rover has also recorded some videos and shared them on the official CNSA website.
In a social media post, CNSA said, “People of the internet, the Mars images you’ve been longing for are here.”
According to a report in CNET, the pictures shared by Zhurong from the Martian surface indicate that the rover is communicating well with the Tianwen-1 orbiter. Earlier, an official from CNSA had said that it would take until the end of the month to receive pictures from Zhurong.
According to a statement by CNSA, the first image (B&W) was captured by the obstacle avoidance camera installed in front of the Mars rover. One can see the ramp extending from the lander to Mars’ rocky surface. One gets a glimpse of the terrain ahead of the lander and the horizon of Mars appears to be curved due to the wide-angle lens.
The second image which is a colour photo was taken by the navigation camera that is on the rear of the rover. One can see the solar panels and antenna unfolding along with the red soil and rocks on the Martian surface.
The Tianwen-1 probe also sent back a video taken by a camera on the orbiter, showing how the lander and the rover separated from the orbiter during landing.
CNSA has gone all out to celebrate this landing and even released GIFs of the lander separating from the orbiter. Currently, there are three rovers on Mars — CNSA’s Zhurong along with NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance.
Reacting to the photographs clicked by Zhurong, NASA congratulated CNSA on its achievement. It said that the US and the world are looking forward to the discoveries that Zhurong will make, to advance our knowledge about Mars.
Zhurong is named after a mythical Chinese fire god and arrived only a few months behind NASA’s Perseverance rover. The lander and rover are in the Utopia Planitia which is a vast terrain in the northern hemisphere of Mars. This is the same location where NASA landed its Viking-2 mission, in 1976. By successfully landing on Mars, China is only the second country, after the USA, to have successfully made it through the infamous seven minutes of terror and have a rover on the Red Planet.
According to a report by AFP, the rover’s landing was a “nail-biter” for Chinese space engineers. State media described the process of using a parachute to slow it descent and buffer legs as “the most challenging part of the mission”.
Weighing 240 kgs, Zhurong is expected to remain on the Martian surface for 90 sols (or Martian days) or around three months. A sol is slightly longer than an Earth day – 25 hours.
It has a tall mast extending from the top that carries the cameras it uses to take pictures and aid in its navigation. It also has five other instruments that will allow it to conduct its science experiments on Mars. Zhurong will study the mineralogy of local rocks and the general nature of Mars’ environment, including the weather. It laser tool that it will use to zap rocks to assess their chemistry and radar to look for sub-surface water-ice.