China’s first Mars rover is taking within the view of its new house. The Zhurong rover touched down on the Red Planet on May 14, and its first photographs reached Earth on May 19.
Zhurong, named for a historical Chinese god of fireside, has been orbiting the Red Planet since February 10, when China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft entered Martian orbit. The rover landed in an unlimited plain known as Utopia Planitia — additionally the place NASA’s Viking 2 lander touched down in 1976, though Viking 2’s website was a lot farther north (SN: 9/11/76).
The orbiter and rover collectively mark China’s first Mars mission and make China solely the second nation to efficiently land a rover there. China has beforehand landed two rovers on the moon, named Yutu and Yutu-2, with the Change-3 and Change-4 missions (SN: 1/3/19).
Unlike NASA’s Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars in February and beamed photographs again nearly instantly (SN: 2/17/21), Zhurong took just a few days to ship its first glimpses of the Martian floor again to Earth. That’s as a result of the rover needed to watch for the Tianwen-1 orbiter to maneuver right into a decreasing orbit to permit it to relay more information between Mars and Earth.
The first photographs are from Zhurong’s hazard avoidance and navigation cameras. For now, the rover remains to be perched atop its touchdown platform. After some days trying round and testing its devices, Zhurong will roll down the lander’s ramps and onto the Martian soil, probably on May 21 or 22, in keeping with a report from China’s state-run Xinhua news agency after the landing.
Zhurong will spend not less than three months finding out the geology at Utopia Planitia and trying to find water ice beneath the floor. The rover carries a ground-penetrating radar that may assist distinguish between rock and ice beneath the floor, just like a technique used by the Yutu-2 rover on the moon (SN: 2/26/20). It additionally carries an instrument to research floor chemistry.
The Tianwen-1 orbiter will stay energetic for a full Martian year (about 687 Earth days), observing the bottom from an area with a high-resolution digital camera.
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