Complex terrain of rocks, impact craters and sand dunes.
Credit: CNSA

China’s Zhurong Mars rover has been operating on the Martian surface for 75 Martian days and has traveled over 2,322 feet (708 meters) within the Red Planet’s Utopia Planitia.

The robot has begun traversing “complex terrain” the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said on Friday. Rocks, impact craters and sand dunes characterize that exploration site.

The rover has completed a survey of a second sand dune and is wheeling southward. Zhurong arrived in the complex terrain area earlier this week, said the center.

China’s Zhurong Mars rover.
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Terrain images

According to China Central Television (CCTV), ground operators will make visual positioning and movement path planning for the rover based on navigation terrain images they obtain every day, so as to ensure the rover’s safety in the area.

When Zhurong meets a target of interest, scientific payloads onboard the rover — such as the surface composition detector and multispectral camera — will carry out tasks. During the journey, the rover’s subsurface radar, meteorological measurement instrument, and subsurface detection radar will also be turned on for detection.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Data processing

China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft, consisting of the orbiter and the rover as well as a lander, was launched on July 23, 2020. The lander carrying the rover touched down in the southern part of Utopia Planitia, a vast plain in the northern hemisphere of Mars, on May 15.

Zhurong drove down from its landing platform to the Martian surface on May 22, making China the second country after the United States to land and successfully operate a rover on Mars.

A newly issued CCTV video details the transmission and processing of data from Mars via China’s Tianwen-1 Mars probe mission.

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