China publishes first images of its rover on Mars

China has released the first photos of its Zhurong rover on the surface of Mars.

The images include a selfie taken by a remote camera dropped by the rover, whose name means ‘God of Fire.’

Another image shows the lander, which carried the 240kg rover to the Red Planet on 15th May. Both pictures were taken at the Utopia Planitia landing site.

The country’s space agency recently shared images and video clips from the successful landing, which saw China become only the second country to deploy a rover on Mars.

The solar-powered craft is a key part of the country’s Tianwen-1 mission, which is made up of the rover, the lander and an orbiter.

In total, the mission contains 14 scientific payloads which will study the Red Planet’s morphology, mineralogy, space environment, and soil and water-ice distribution.

The rover itself has six instruments it will use to investigate Mars’ geology and climate. It is expected to traverse the surface of the planet for 92 days.

Zhurong is one of three rovers currently active on Mars. It joins Nasa’s Curiosity and Perseverence rovers.

The European Space Agency (ESA) and Russian space agency Roscosmos plan to land a rover on Mars in June 2023.

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Originally slated to launch around about the same time as Perseverence — which lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida last July — the mission was delayed to allow more time for testing.

The rover, named after English chemist Rosalind Franklin, is now expected to launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in September 2022 as part of the ‘ExoMars’ mission.

ExoMars’ rover and lander and rover will join a trace gas orbiter that launched back in 2016.

The mission will investigate whether life has ever existed on Mars.

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