China’s Mars rover drives on surface a week after landing

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May 22 (UPI) — China’s Mars rover drove across the planet for the first time Saturday a week after landing, the country’s space agency announced.

The six-wheeled, solar-powered rover, Zhurong, named after the Chinese god of fire, drove down the ramp of its landing capsule Saturday morning, the China National Space Administration announced.

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The move makes China the second country after the United States to operate a rover on Mars, CNN reported. China landed the rover on the Red Planet last week, also becoming the second country after the United States to do so, and sent back the first images from its Tianwen-1 space mission Wednesday.

The orbiter entered Mars orbit in February after launching from the island of Hainan on July 23.

Zhurong, which weighs 530 pounds, has six scientific instruments including a high-resolution topography camera and will explore Mars’ surface soil and atmosphere during a 90-day mission. It will also use a ground-penetrating radar to look for signs of life, such as water and ice.

China’s Mars rover is among three operating on Mars.

For the United States, NASA’s Mars helicopter Ingenuity’s mission was extended on April 30 for another 30 days, so the mini-aircraft could act as a scout for the rover Perseverance. The rover’s mission is to drill for rock samples that may show signs of ancient life on Mars.

Perseverance made its first drive on the Red Planet in March, capturing images of its own wheel marks in the Martian dust, according to NASA engineers.

NASA’s rover, Curiosity, which landed in 2012, is the third robotic rover operating on Mars.

Dispatches from Mars: Perseverance rover sends images

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover used its dual-camera Mastcam-Z imager to capture this image of “Santa Cruz,” a hill about 1.5 miles away from the rover, on April 29. The entire scene is inside of Mars’ Jezero Crater. The crater’s rim can be seen on the horizon line beyond the hill. Photo courtesy of NASA | License Photo