China’s Zhurong rover returns first images of Mars

New views of the Martian surface have been released by the China National Space Agency following the landing of its Zhurong rover.

The first images of Mars captured by China’s Zhurong rover have been released by the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

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A lander carrying the rover reached the surface of Mars on 15 May 2021, touching down in Utopia Planitia, a vast plain in the planet’s northern hemisphere.

It is the first Chinese probe to land on another planet.

A view of Mars captured by China's Tianwen-1 rover's 'obstacle avoidance camera'. Credit: CNSA
A view of Mars captured by China’s Tianwen-1 rover’s ‘obstacle avoidance camera’. Credit: CNSA

Two images have been released by the CNSA, the first a black and white photo captured by an ‘obstacle avoidance camera’ on the front of the Mars rover.

The second is a colour image captured by the rover’s rear navigation camera that shows solar panels and the rusty red, rocky Martian terrain.

An image of Mars captured by China's Tianwen-1 rover using its near navigation camera. Credit: CNSA
An image of Mars captured by China’s Tianwen-1 rover using its near navigation camera. Credit: CNSA

A video captured by the Tianwen-1 orbiter that carried Zhurong to Mars shows the lander and rover separating during the landing.

Tianwen-1 is China’s first Mars exploration probe and launched on 23 July 2020. It entered orbit around Mars on 10 February 2021 and began collecting data ahead of the rover’s landing on the surface of the Red Planet.

It is hoped that the rover will operate for at least 90 Martian days in Utopia Planitia.

A video showing the moment the Tianwen-1 lander and rover separate from the orbiter during landing on Mars. Credit: CSNA
A video showing the moment the Tianwen-1 lander and rover separate from the orbiter during landing on Mars. Credit: CSNA

The Volcanic plain was first visited by NASA’s Viking 2 lander in September 1975.

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Tianwen-1 is the third of humanity’s spacecraft to reach Mars in 2021, the other two being NASA’s Perseverance rover and the United Arab Emirates’ Hope probe.