China's Zhurong Mars rover lays down wheel tracks on the red planet

The solar-powered Tianwen-1 mission rover has touched the surface.

China's Zhurgon rover has left its mark on Mars with these wheel tracks leading away from the Tianwen-1 lander.

This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.

Two countries have successfully landed and operated a rover on Mars: the US and China. China joined the exclusive club earlier this month by delivering the Zhurong rover -- part of its Tianwen-1 Mars mission -- to the red planet.

Zhurong moved into a new phase last weekend when it rolled from the land platform, down a ramp and onto the surface of Mars. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) shared images from the surface operations and gave Earthlings their first look at the rover's wheel tracks etched into the dusty surface of Mars. 

The photo of the wheel tracks primarily shows the lander and the surrounding landscape along with the rover's shadow and one of its wheels. Another image gives the rover's view as it made its way down the ramp.

The Zhurong rover heads down the lander ramp to the surface of Mars.


China's rover is exploring Utopia Planitia, a large plains area. The rover is equipped with a suite of science instruments, including a radar that will look for signs of subsurface ice.

The Tianwen-1 mission has three main components: the rover, the lander and an orbiting spacecraft that is helping send data from the surface back to Earth. The solar-powered rover is expected to work for at least three months.

CNSA has kept its public Mars reports much more low key than we're used to with NASA, which has been sharing a stream of updates from the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter

It took a few days after Zhurong's landing to see the first views from the surface, but the latest images show the mission's progress and highlight that China is making a mark on Mars.

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