Chinese rover captures unique selfie from Mars

Robots can do anything—even take selfies. China’s Zhurong rover took a picture of itself using a detachable wireless camera while it was traversing the surface of Mars. The Chinese rover’s selfie has been making rounds across the Internet, with people lauding the technology that allowed the rover to accomplish such a feat. This six-wheeled “fire god” is part of China’s effort to explore and learn more about the Red Planet. The Zhurong rover is the first Chinese robot to land on Mars.

While the rover is smaller than NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance, it’s still a pretty powerful machine. It weighs 530 pounds, is powered by four solar panels, and stands at roughly six feet tall. The Zhurong rover landed on Mars on May 14, and it has been hard at work scouring the Red Planet’s surface ever since. To commemorate the Zhurong rover’s trip to Mars, the China National Space Administration recently shared some new images of the mission. (Read: China launches “world’s first 6G satellite”)

The batch of photos showcases the Zhurong rover posing with its rocket-powered landing platform. So, how could the Chinese rover take a selfie? The rover used a camera attached to its belly, which it dropped roughly 10 meters away from its landing platform to get a complete shot. It proceeded to pose next to the platform. The camera used wireless technology to transmit the shot back to the rover, which then promptly sent the images back to Earth using the Tianwen-1 orbiter, which is responsible for both relaying data from the rover and gathering information about Mars. In the images, you can see both machines proudly bearing the Chinese flag.

The Zhurong rover is currently exploring Utopia Planitia, a vast plain on Mars that was last visited in 1976 by NASA’s Viking Lander 2. Its mission is to study the area’s topography and geology, analyze its soil content, determine if there’s any ice on Mars’ surface, and sample its atmosphere to see if it is suitable for human life. Some of the images that the Chinese rover has captured include pictures of the Utopia Planitia’s topography and rock formations. These are fairly consistent with scientists’ anticipations as the Zhurong rover sent back images of rocks, mud volcanoes, and white wave patterns.

We believe that this batch of images isn’t the last we would see, too. The Zhurong rover will spend at least 90 days studying the area before sending back a more comprehensive data report. The Tianwen-1 orbiter, on the other hand, is expected to be operational for one Mars year, which is equivalent to 687 days on Earth, or almost two Earth years.

The race is on to discover as much as possible about Mars, and China might just turn into a contender in the months to come. Naturally, we will all have to wait and see what other images the Zhurong rover will be snapping, but these recent photos are quite promising. Say cheese, Zhurong rover!

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Misha Fabian

Athlete | Performer | Writer

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