China has released a selfie taken by its Zhurong rover on the surface of Mars, in celebration of its first month on the Red Planet.
Zhurong can be seen with its landing platform in the background adorned with the Chinese flag, from which the rover rolled off at the end of May to begin its exploration.
Zhurong placed a remote camera about 33 feet (10 meters) from the landing platform, then withdrew to take a group portrait, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said.
Zhurong successfully touched down on Utopia Planitia, a vast northern lava plain on the Red Planet, on May 15, after it spent about three months orbiting the planet.
It blasted off from Earth in July 2020, tucked in the belly of China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft, which entered Martian orbit in February.
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In this image released by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) on Friday, June 11, 2021, the Chinese Mars rover Zhurong is seen near its landing platform taken by a remote camera that was dropped into position by the rover
Paul Byrne, a professor of Planetary Science at NC State University, tweeted: ‘Everybody!! The Chinese rover #zhurong carried a small wireless camera that it placed on the ground to take a group photo.
‘Look at the rover’s little face!’
Another photo released by CNSA today shows a crystal clear close-up of the landing platform amid the planet’s rocky red dust, as well as the landscape of Mars captured by Zhurong.
Eagle-eyed observers will notice outlines of the mascots for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics next to the Chinese flag on the landing platform.
In this image released by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) on Friday, June 11, 2021, the landing platform with a Chinese national flag and outlines of the mascots for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics on Mars is seen from the rover Zhurong. China on Friday released a series of photos taken by its Zhurong rover on the surface of Mars, including one of the rover itself taken by a remote camera
The landscape of Mars captured by Chinese rover Zhurong of the Tianwen-1 mission is seen in this image released by China National Space Administration (CNSA) June 11, 2021
The first photos taken by Zhurong – one in colour and one in black and white – prior to its descent from its landing platform were released by CNSA last month.
The front view of the rover, captured in black and white, shows the flat landscape of Utopia Planitia, which appears slightly curved in the horizon.
The second colour shot, showing the rear of the spacecraft, shows its unfolded solar panels and antennas.
In this black-and-white front shot taken by China’s Zhurong Mars rover and made available by the CNSA, extension arms and a departure ramp are deployed on the rover’s lander on the surface of Mars
In this CNSA photo taken by China’s Zhurong Mars rover, a rear view of the rover shows solar panels and antenna are deployed as the rover sits on its lander on the surface of Mars
Chinese officials plan to use the rover to analyse Martian soil and atmosphere, capture images, chart maps and look for water and signs of ancient life
INSTRUMENTS ON THE ZHURONG ROVER
The Zhurong rover communicates with Earth via the Tianwen-1 orbiter which has a ‘high speed data relay’.
Instruments on board the rover include a high-resolution camera that will be used for navigation and sharing images of the Red Planet surface.
Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR) imagined up to 330ft below the surface of Mars
Mars Surface Magnetic Field Detector (MSMFD) to find evidence of a magnetic field and track it
Mars Meteorological Measurement Instrument (MMMI) to study the weather on the Red Planet
Mars Surface Compound Detector (MSCD) combines tools to study the chemical composition of rocks
Multi-Spectrum Camera (MSC) to take images in different wavelengths of light such as infrared and ultraviolet
Navigation and Topography Camera (NTC) to capture images and map the surface of the planet and help the rover determine where to travel
According to CGTN, the black-and-white shot was taken by a camera on the front of Zhurong, which effectively serves as an ‘eye’ for the rover to detect obstacles.
The two ‘arms’ near the top of the photo are parts of a radar system, while two rails, extending from the platform to the ground, help guide the rover.
Zhurong is surveying Utopia Planitia for signs of water or ice that could lend clues as to whether Mars ever sustained life.
The plain is the largest impact basin in the solar system, with an estimated diameter of 2,050 miles and home to large volumes of underground ice.
The six-wheeled 530lb rover has a climate detector, subsurface radar, magnetic field detectors and a camera to capture images and chart maps of the planitia.
At 1.85 meters (6 feet) in height, Zhurong is significantly smaller than the US’s Perseverance rover which is exploring the planet with the help of a tiny helicopter.
NASA expects its rover to collect its first rock samples in July for return to Earth as early as 2031, as part of an ambitious, multi-stage mission.
China is the second country to land and operate a spacecraft on Mars, after the US.
China has now sent astronauts into space, powered probes to the Moon and returned the first moon samples to Earth in more than 45 years, as well as landed a rover on Mars.
At the end of April, it also launched Tianhe, the main section of what will be a permanent space station, aimed to rival the International Space Station (the ISS).
3D rendering of the Chinese Space Station, or Tiangong Space Station, as it’ll look when fully constructed. Tianhe will form the main living quarters for three crew members. Shenzhou is an existing spacecraft that would dock at the station with crew. Tianzhou is an existing cargo transport spacecraft
Chinese Space Station modules
– Tianhe: Core module. Launched on April 29, 2021
– Wentian: Experiment module I. Launch planned for 2022
– Mengtian: Experiment module II. Launch planned for 2022
– Xuntian: Space telescope module. Planned launch in 2024 to co-orbit with Chinese Space Station
China’s ambitious space program plans to send the first crew to Tianhe next week.
The three crew members plan to stay for three months on Tianhe, far exceeding the length of any previous Chinese mission.
They will perform spacewalks, construction and maintenance work and carry out science experiments.
Subsequent launches are planned to expand the station, send up supplies and exchange crews.
Once finished, the Chinese Space Station is expected to have a mass between 180,000 and 220,000 pounds – roughly one-fifth the mass of the ISS, which is 925,335 pounds.
ISS, currently in orbit, took 10 years and more than 30 missions to assemble from the launch of the first module back in 1998.
The ISS is backed by five participating space agencies – NASA (US), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada) – but China was originally barred from participating by the US.
CHINA STEPS UP PLANS TO BECOME SPACE SUPERPOWER WITH MARS AND MOON MISSIONS
Officials from the Chinese space agency are working to become a space superpower alongside the US and Russia.
They have already sent the first lander to explore the far side of the Moon – sharing photos from the part of our nearest neighbour we rarely see as part of the Chang’e-4 mission.
In November 2020 they sent the Chang’e-5 space probe to the Moon to collect and return the first samples of lunar soil in 45 years.
This was done in collaboration with the European Space Agency who provided tracking information for the Chinese spaceship.
Chang’e-6 will be the first mission to explore the south pole of the Moon and is expected to launch in 2023 or 2024.
Chang’e-7 will study the land surface, composition, space environment in an overall mission, according to the Chinese space authority, while Chang’e-8 will focus on technical surface analysis.
China is also reportedly working on building a lunar base using 3D printing technology and sending a future crewed mission to the surface.
Mission number eight will likely lay the groundwork for this as it strives to verify the technology earmarked for the project.
The CNSA is also building an Earth-orbiting space station where Chinese astronauts will conduct scientific experiments, similar to the crew of the ISS.
The agency also launched a mission to Mars in summer 2020 and landed a rover on the red planet in May 2021.
China is also said to be working on a project to build a solar power generator in space, that would beam energy back to Earth and becoming the largest man made object in orbit.
They also have a number of ambitious space science projects including satellites to hunt for signs of gravitational waves and Earth observation spacecrafts to monitor climate change.