After the lander touched down successfully, China’s Zhurong rover has laid its wheels on the surface of Mars for the first time as it starts its research mission.
China has become just the second country in the world (after the United States) to have sent a rover to the Martian surface, a feat it accomplished on March 23, one week after the landing craft initially touched down.
According to the BBC, the rover will study the rocks and atmosphere of the red planet, whilst also looking for signs of life in any subsurface water or ice that is present there.
Images taken from the rover can be seen in the above embedded video, giving us a clear view of the distinctive rocky terrain, overshadowed by the rover itself.
The Tianwen-1 mission was launched all the way back in July 2020, so these pictures have been long-awaited. The rover itself will now operate for 92 days (or 90 ‘sols’ as the Martian equivalent), during which it will perform its research tasks.
Zhang Yuhua, the deputy chief commander of the mission, stated: “We hope we can get a comprehensive covering of Martian topography, landform and environment, and the exploratory data of the radar detecting the Martian subsurface during one Martian year. By doing so, our country will have our own abundant and first-hand data about Martian resources.”
This interplanetary voyage is more about just science; it is a statement of pride and prestige for the Chinese nation. After becoming the second nation to land an unmanned mission on Mars, could it one day become the first to land a human on another planet? With this acknowledged ambition shared by China, the United States, and private firms such as SpaceX, it’s surely just a matter of time before the new space race sees mankind make another giant leap.