China Has Released the First Breathtaking Photographs Taken by Its MARS Rover

The China National Space Administration (CNSA), which runs the mission, has released two Mars photographs taken by the rover: one in color and one in black and white. Both images show parts of the rover and its lander against a backdrop of Utopia Planitia, the expansive northern plain that Zhurong will explore during its mission.


This photo is the first color view of Mars from China’s Zhurong rover, looking toward its rear, from its landing spot on a plain in Utopia Planitia following a May 14, 2021 landing. This image was released May 19. (Image credit: China National Space Administration)


From a navigation camera above the rover’s main deck, the color image shows a view looking back at Zhurong. Some surface rocks and features can be seen, as well as solar arrays. The image in black and white is from the rover’s front obstacle avoidance camera. It was taken with a wide-angle lens, which also revealed the horizon of Mars in the distance, as well as two subsurface radar instruments on the rover.


This black and white view of Mars is a photo from a navigation camera on China’s Mars rover Zhurong released on May 19, 2021 about 4 days after landing. The ramp to the Martian surface from Zhurong’s lander is visible, as are two subsurface radar instruments on the rover and the Martian horizon in the wide-angle view.  (Image credit: China National Space Administration)


In addition to the photos from the surface,
CNSA also released
two short videos of the orbiter and Zhurong rover’s landing capsule separating during Friday’s maneuver. Both videos come from cameras on the orbiter and show the capsule pulling away.


China’s successful Mars landing made it only the second country after the United States to soft-land on the red planet. The Soviet Union and the European Space Agency have both sent missions to the surface of Mars, but none of them have succeeded. The arrival of Zhurong brings the total number of active Mars rovers to three, joining NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance rovers.


This brief time-lapse captures the moment of separation as China’s Zhurong rover and lander cast off from the Tianwen 1 orbiter to descend to Mars. (Image credit: China National Space Administration)


The landing is part of China’s Tianwen-1 mission, which was also the country’s first successful Mars orbiter; in February, China became the sixth country to do so. Tianwen-1 means “Heavenly Questions,” and Zhurong is the name of an ancient Chinese fire god.


Zhurong’s next milestone is expected to occur on Friday or Saturday (May 21 or May 22), when the rover will make its way down the pair of ramps seen in the new greyscale image to reach the Martian surface proper.

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