China became the second country to successfully deploy a vehicle on Mars on Saturday, and the first to do so on its inaugural visit to the Red Planet. Reuters reported that the solar-powered Zhurong rover drove down the ramp of its landing capsule on to the surface of Mars at about 10:40 AM Beijing time.
Zhurong first landed on Mars earlier this month and started its journey on Mars’ surface on Utopia Planitia, a smooth plain where NASA’s Viking 2 lander touched down in 1976. That’s more than 1,200 miles from the Jezero Crater where the US rover Perseverance touched down in February. A third rover, NASA’s Curiosity, which landed on Mars in 2012, was spotted by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter climbing up Mars’ Mont Mercou last month, Space News reported.
Zhurong, named for the Chinese god of fire, has a Mars-Rover Subsurface Exploration Radar, Mars Magnetic Field Detector, and Mars Meteorology Monitor, as well as a high-resolution topography camera. It will study Mars’ soil and atmosphere, and search for signs of water or ice beneath the planet’s surface over the course of its 90-day mission.
The European Space Agency and Russia’s Roscosmos Space Corporation are planning to jointly land a rover on Mars in 2022.