New Delhi: The China National Space Administration (CNSA) Friday released new images taken by the country’s first rover on Mars, Zhurong.
The images were unveiled at a ceremony in Beijing and showed China’s national flag on the red planet, state-owned Xinhua News Agency reported. The photographs also include a panorama of the landing site, the planet’s dusty landscape and a selfie of the rover with the landing platform. There were four images in all.
According to the CNSA website, the 360-degree panoramic shot of the landing site was taken by a camera on the rover’s mast and the images were stitched together with correction and mosaics before the rover left the landing platform.
The rover is a part of the Tianwen-1 mission, which was launched by China in July 2020 and landed in May this year. In addition to the Mars mission, China’s ambitious space programme plans to send the first crew to its new space station next week.
“China will publish the related scientific data in a timely manner to let humankind share in the fruits of the country’s space exploration development,” Zhang Kejian, head of the CNSA, was quoted by Xinhua as saying.
On 15 May, China successfully landed the Zhurong rover on Mars, which was aboard the Tianwen-1 mission. The rover, about 1.85 metres (6 feet) in height, entered the orbit around Mars in February.
The rover Zhurong is named after the god of fire in ancient Chinese mythology and has an expected lifespan of at least 90 Martian days, which is roughly three months on Earth too, states the CNSA website.
The primary role of the Zhurong rover, just like NASA’s currently active rovers on Mars, is to search for present or past life on the planet. The six-wheeled rover is surveying an area on the red planet known as Utopia Planitia, for signs of water or ice.
China’s Mars mission was formally launched in 2013 and approved in January 2016.
It is only the second country to successfully land and operate a spacecraft on Mars, after the US. NASA’s Curiosity Rover landed in Mars in August 2012 and the Perseverance Rover, part of the agency’s 2020 mission, landed in February this year.
The first spacecraft to land on Mars successfully was launched by the Soviet Union in 1971. However, it stopped transmitting after just 110 seconds. Russia has not had a successful landing since. The European Union (EU) has also attempted to land on Mars, but has not been successful yet.