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Communist China’s Mars rover releases its first video from Mars’ surface

China's Zhurong Mars rover. (YouTube screenshot)
June 29, 2021

On Sunday, China broadcast the first images from its Zhurong Mars rover after it succesfully landed on the surface of Mars.

The footage, shared by Chinese state media and reuploaded on YouTube and other social media sites, showed China’s Tianwen-1 Mars probe deploy a parachute after entering Mars’ atmosphere, the probe land and the Zhurong rover offload from the lander.

The footage comes more than a month after Tianwen-1 first landed on Mars’ surface. The footage is the first to be broadcast back to earth.

The Tianwen-1 probe launched from Earth on July 23, 2020 and entered Mars’ orbit in February, before finally landing on the Martian surface on May 14. According to the state-run China Central Television (CCTV) news agency, the rover has been operation for 42 Martian days and has driven a total of 236 meters.

The video also included sound captured from the Mars surface of the rover rotating a pinion after landing. The video also showed the offloaded Zhurong rover deploy a wifi-connected camera before rolling back into the camera’s frame.

The Zhurong rover is currently active in Tainwen-1’s landing area, an expansive plain in Mars’ northern hemisphere known as Utopia Planitia.

Zhurong is the sixth overall rover to successfully land and operate from the surface of Mars. The first five rovers: Sojourner (1997), Opportunity (2004),  Spirit (2004), Curiosity (2012), and Perseverance (2021) were launched and landed on the Martian surface by the U.S.

Zhurong’s audio recording is also the second-ever recording of sounds on Mars’ surface after the Perseverance recorded and sent back audio of Martian wind earlier this year.

CNN reported Zhurong’s mission is expected to last for about three months. By comparison, the U.S. Perseverance rover has remained active since Feb. 18, 2021, and NASA plans for it to have a primary mission lifespan of at least one Martian year, or about 687 days on Earth.

The Chinese Mars probe is now returning its audio and footage from the Martian surface just ahead of celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

This week the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said the Zhurong rover is “reporting safety from Mars to the Party and the motherland, sending distant blessings at the time of the (Communist Party of China) centennial,” CNN reported.

The new footage and audio from the Zhurong rover also comes just days after China launched three astronauts to its under-construction Tiangong space station. Those astronauts are expected to help assemble life support components of the space station’s core module before China sends up additional portions of the space station for assembly.