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China's first Mars rover has delivered breathtaking images of a drive on the dusty planet and captured its first sounds from the Red Planet.

The first sounds captured by the Mars rover Zhurong as it drove off its Tianwen-1 lander and onto the Martian surface on May 22 are seen in a new video broadcast on June 27 by China's state-run CCTV news channel. It also features a breathtaking movie of Zhurong driving on Mars, which was created by stitching together images from the rover's tiny camera.

"In fact the sounds were made when the pinion of the Mars rover rotates on the rack, or say the clashing sounds between metals," Jia Yang, Tianwen-1 system deputy chief designer, said in the video according to a CCTV translation. "The purpose we [installed] the recording device is to capture the sounds of wind on Mars during its windy weathers. We really want to hear how the winds sound like on a planet other than the Earth."

 Black and white image of Mars from Zhurong
(Photo: CNSA / WikiCommons)

Zhurong Rover: China's Tianwen-1 Focal Point

The Zhurong rover is the focal point of China's Tianwen-1 mission, which carried an orbiter and the rover to Mars this year. In July 2020, the combined spacecraft launched and arrived in orbit around Mars in February. The Mars rover Zhurong touched down on the plains of Utopia Planitia on May 14. It is studying the Red Planet with six science payloads, including a microphone.

"With the [video, image and audio] files we released this time, including those sounds recorded when our Mars rover left the lander, we [can] conduct in-depth analysis to the environment and condition of Mars, for example, the density of the atmosphere on the Mars," said Liu Jizhong, deputy commander of China's first Mars exploration program, in the CCTV interview.

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A second video uploaded by CCTV also shows a sequence of breathtaking images of Mars from the Tianwen-1 lander and the Zhurong rover. They capture pictures of the lander's parachute, the moment it separated from the lander, and views of the Martian landscape as it reached the surface.

Rao Wei, the Tianwen-1 probe's deputy chief designer, told CCTV they intended to get some visual states of the rover to improve the project further.

Those systems appeared to perform as expected, with the Tianwen-1 lander descending as anticipated and finding a safe landing location.

Rao stated they could tell the landing spot is only three kilometers away from our planned position based on the data. In general, he stated that the landing location is really precise and that the control system is excellent.

About Zhurong Rover

The Verge said the solar-powered Zhurong landed on Mars for the first time in May, as part of China's Tianwen-1 mission, which had arrived in orbit around Mars in February. Zhurong began its Martian voyage on Utopia Planitia, a smooth plain where NASA's Viking 2 lander landed in 1976, after descending from the Tianwen-1 orbiter above the planet's surface. That is more nearly 1,000 miles away from the Jezero Crater, where the US rover Perseverance landed in February, so the two rovers are not going to be seen together anytime soon. NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars in 2012, was recently photographed climbing the planet's Mont Mercou by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

With its high-resolution cameras, subsurface radar, multi-spectral camera, and surface composition detector, a magnetic field detector, and a weather monitor, the 530-pound (240 kilograms) Zhurong rover is estimated to endure around 90 Martian days exploring the Red Planet. The Tianwen-1 orbiter is expected to endure a Martian year, which spans approximately 687 Earth days.

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