The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has revealed the first images from Mars taken by its Zhurong rover, which arrived on the planet’s surface on Saturday. Scientists say that the shots — which show the rover with its solar panels unfurled and the ramp from its lander deployed — hint that it has arrived at a safe, ideal site from which it can begin exploring.
“The first images show, first and foremost, a terrain that will be easy to drive over,” says Alfred McEwen, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
He and other space scientists are thrilled to see that the site appears to be flat and largely free of obstructions, such as craters, rocks and boulders. From there, the craft potentially will travel relatively long distances to features of interest seen in satellite imagery.
“We are very excited. But we are still waiting for more images with high resolution to come,” says Yuyan Zhao, a planetary geochemist at the Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, in Guiyang.
Moments from Mars
On 19 May, four days after Zhurong’s arrival, the CNSA released two images snapped by cameras on the rover.
It also released two brief video clips, which captured the moment — more than 100 kilometres above the red planet’s surface — that the Tianwen-1 orbiter released the rover and lander, encased in a heat shield, ready to begin their descent through the Martian atmosphere.