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Chinese rover Zhurong captures unique selfie on Mars


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The new “selfie”, showing the Zhurong rover and its landing pad.
Picture: CNSA via Xinhua

Zhurong rover, whose name translates to “god of fire,” used a detachable wireless connection 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-wheeled Zhurong is a major deal for China, as it’s the country’s first mission to explore the Red Planet. China’s National Space Administration today unveiled a bundle of images to celebrate the mission, as state agency Xinhua reports.

The 530-pound (240-kilogram) rover landed on May 14 and departed the landing pad on May 22. Zhurong explores Utopia Planitia, a plain last visited by NASA’s Viking Lander 2 in 1976.

To create the selfie, the rover placed a camera on the dusty surface, receded nearly 10 meters (33 feet) and struck a pose, while nature reports. The image shows Zhurong with his masthead proudly extended, as well as the rocket-powered platform that brought the rover to the surface. Chinese flags can be seen on both vehicles.

The landing pad shown in isolation.

The landing pad shown in isolation.
Picture: CNSA via Xinhua

A 360 degree panorama showing the landing site.

A 360 degree panorama showing the landing site.
Picture: CNSA via Xinhua

Other images include a 360 degree panoramic view from the landing site, a shot of the isolated landing pad (with wheel tracks at the base of the extended ramp), and an unobstructed image showing the current environment of Zhurong.

A view of the immediate surroundings of the Chinese lander.

A view of the immediate surroundings of the Chinese lander.
Picture: CNSA via Xinhua

Zhurong’s mission should last 90 sols, or Martian days, during which he will track the weather, study geology, and perform other tasks as a remote planetologist. The rover has a laser tool to analyze the rocks and a radar to sniff groundwater ice. Interesting features of Utopia Planitia include sand dune-like structures, potential frost, and rest of an ancient lava or mud volcano.

Images taken by the Tianwen-1 probe show the landing site before and after landing.

Images taken by the Tianwen-1 probe show the landing site before and after landing.
Picture: CNSA

Earlier this week, the Chinese space agency published new images of Mars taken by its Tianwen-1 probe. A high-resolution image taken on June 2 shows Zhurong and the landing pad on the surface, as well as a dark spot caused by the lander’s retro-rockets. The Tianwen-1 orbiter, which launched with Zhurong on July 23, 2020, will spend a full Martian year, or 687 Earth days, relaying communications to the rover and carrying out its own scientific work.

Zhurong is one of three rovers currently working on the Red Planet, the others being NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance (NASA’s InSight is also active on Mars, but it is stationary). The commissioning phase of Perseverance is now complete, the rover is ready to embark on his first scientific expedition. Mars has suddenly become a very busy place, which is amazing.

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