China Zhurong Rover Snaps Unique Stunning Selfie with Lander Platform on Red Planet

China Zhurong Rover Snaps Unique Stunning Selfie with Lander Platform on Red Planet
Chinese Zhurong Mars rover captures selfie of the rover and the landing platform showing China’s national flag at Utopia Planitia landing site on Mars with a separate camera placed onto the surface at a distance of about 10 meters to the south. Credit: CNSA

For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – China’s Zhurong rover snapped a completely unique and stunning selfie of the six wheeled rover standing side by side with the lander platform that safely delivered it to the surface of the Red Planet onto the plains of the Utopia Planitia landing site – thus becoming the first ever Chinese spacecraft to land on Mars about one month ago on May 11 as part of the Tianwen-1 mission.

Chinese officials with China’s space agency the China National Space Administration (CNSA) released the ingenious first-of-its-kind ‘super cool’ panoramic selfie image along with others during a press conference heralding the complete success of the interplanetary exploration Tianwen-1 mission on Friday, June 11.

To capture the spectacular selfie the rover first drove about 10 meters to the south of the landing platform, and then detached a small remote camera mounted on its bottom and placed it on the surface looking back.  The selfie image was then relayed wirelessly back to the rover and transmitted to Earth.

Zhurong then “retreated to the side of the platform. The image was then taken and transmitted wirelessly to the rover, and finally sent back to Earth relayed by the orbiter in its orbit,” China CGTN state affiliated media reported at the press conference.

NASA has not done anything like this – placing a separate remote camera on the ground – instead relying on a high resolution color camera mounted on the terminus of the 7 foot long (2 m) robotic arm to look back to capture selfies of America’s Mars rovers – Perseverance and Curiosity.

“The release of the first scientific images marks a complete success of China’s first Mars exploration mission,” said CNSA.

“The images show the landing site panorama, Martian topography and landforms, the landing platform, and a selfie of the rover itself with the landing platform.”

 

With the successful landing Zhurong thereby made history to become the first ever Chinese spacecraft to soft land on the 4th rock from the Sun and thereafter rolled onto the surface about a week later  starting its mobile 3 month long mission to explore the Red Planet.

This image showing the landing platform was taken by the Chinese Zhurong rover at a distance of roughly 6 meters away from the platform at the Utopia Planitia landing site on Mars. China’s national flag can be seen unfurled with brightness on the lander along with rover wheel tracks and the ramp it drove down to the surface in May 2021. Credit: CNSA

Zhurong is in excellent health to date and carrying out its mission since it rolled down the lander ramp and onto Mars, on May 22.

“Zhurong is very healthy and steadily making way to its designated targets every day,” Zhang Rongqiao, Chief Designer of China’s first Mars exploration mission, told CGTN Chinese state media at the images’ unveiling ceremony.

“Since the touchdown on May 15, the rover has been checking out its own conditions as well as its surroundings; it has moved some 80 meters by now.”

Panoramic panchromatic image view of the Utopia Planitia landing site taken by the navigation terrain camera on the Zhurong rover before leaving the landing platform, shows a flat area surrounding the lander on Mars. Credit: CNSA

 

Zhurong is named after the Chinese god of fire, loaded with six science instruments and weighs 240 kg (530 lb) and a height of 1.85 m (6 ft).

Officials confirmed a decision that the rover is driving south from the landing site because that leads to interesting science targets
“We selected this particular direction for several reasons. The altitude picks up that way, from the ancient martian ocean to land,” Liu Jianjun, chief designer of the ground application system of the Tianwen-1 probe, told CGTN

“And that’s also where we’ll come across some of the most interesting things we care about, like mud volcanoes and sub-surface ice.”

China is thereby only the second nation from Earth to successfully soft land a rover on Mars and transmit back significant amounts of data and imagery – following the United States which is currently operating fleet of rovers and orbiters at Mars including the new Perseverance Mars rover and the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter.

The Zhurong Mars rover is a component of China’s 11,000-pound (5-metric ton) Tianwen-1 mission comprising an orbiter, lander and rover that successfully arrived in Mars orbit on February 10.

“The rover will travel on the Mars surface and gather information of its surroundings, carry out scientific explorations with six payloads, including a configured terrain camera, multispectral camera, subsurface [water ice] detection radar, surface composition detector and more,” says CNSA.

Martian landscape image is the first landform image taken by the navigational terrain camera after the Zhurong rover reached the surface of Mars at Utopia Planitia on May 22, 2021. Credit: CNSA

 

The mission was developed, directed and funded by China’s national space agency – namely the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

There is international participation on the mission.

CNSA has partnered with four other space agencies, namely the European Space Agency (ESA), France’s National Center for Space Studies, Argentina National Space Activities Commission and Austrian Research Promotion Agency, in payload calibration and the mission’s measurement and control.

This first black and while picture was taken by China’s Zhurong Mars rover from the Martian surface after driving down the rail ramp on May 22, 2021 and looks back to the lander. The image was taken by the wide angle hazard/obstacle avoidance camera and released by CNSA on May 22. Credit: China National Space Administration/CNSA

China plans to go deeper into the solar system and has plans to send a probe on a voyage to Jupiter

 

After entering polar elliptical orbit in February 2021 ranging between 165 miles (265 kilometers) and nearly 7,500 miles (12,000 kilometers) the orbiter deployed the rover/lander on May 14, 2021.

Watch Ken’s continuing reports about Tianwen-1, Mars 2020 Perseverance and Curiosity rovers, Artemis and NASA missions, SpaceX, Starlink, ULA missions, Commercial Crew Starliner and Crew Dragon and onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Crew 1 & 2, Demo-2, ISS, X-37B, Solar Orbiter, NRO spysats and national security missions and more at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com

Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
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The forward looking hazard avoidance camera view during Zhurong rover deployment onto Mars surface on May 22, 2021. Credit: CNSA/PEC

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Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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