China’s Zhurong Rover Captures Remarkable Sights and Sounds on Mars

China’s Zhurong Rover Captures Remarkable Sights and Sounds on Mars
Zhurong backing away from its wireless camera. (Gif: CNSA/Gizmodo)

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has released new footage of the ongoing Tianwen-1 mission, which includes sounds of the rover in action.

Released by CNSA on Sunday, June 27, the footage shows the parachute deployment, descent, and landing, the deployment of the Zhurong rover to the surface, as well as a sweet shot of the six-wheeled vehicle backing away from its wireless camera. Launched in July 2020, the Tianwen-1 mission — China’s first to the Red Planet — arrived in orbit around Mars on February 10, 2021.

The first video chronicles the landing on May 15 and presents views taken from three different cameras. Similar to NASA’s footage of the Perseverance landing earlier this year, the video shows the parachute deployment and the backshell separation. The rover’s obstacle avoidance camera was used to record the landing itself. Media captured during the mission are relayed to Earth using the Tianwen-1 satellite, currently in orbit around Mars.

The second video is neat in that it includes both visuals and audio. The rover can be seen — and heard — driving down a ramp as it exits the landing platform to reach the Martian surface, which it did on May 22. The footage was captured by the rover’s front and rear avoidance cameras, and the audio was recorded by a microphone that will be used to study the Martian “environment and condition, such as atmospheric density and other parameters on the planet,” explained Liu Jizhong, deputy commander of the Mars exploration program, in the South China Morning Post.

The sound of Zhurong “moving away mainly comes from the driving mechanism, the friction between the wheels and the ramp, and the friction between the wheels and the ground,” according to a CNSA statement. The sound is quite muted, reminiscent of audio captured during flights of NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter. Sound waves have barely any atmosphere to work with on Mars, hence the muffled audio.

The third video was taken just prior to a neat selfie that shows both Zhurong and the landing platform. After depositing the wireless camera onto the surface, the rover can be seen retreating as it heads back toward the lander in preparation for the selfie.

As of today, Zhurong has been working on Mars for 42 Martian days and has travelled a total of 236 metres. Both the orbiter and Zhurong are in “good working condition,” according to CNSA. The mission is expected to last 90 days, during which time the rover will study the Red Planet’s geology, climate, regolith, and internal structure, in addition to searching for signs of subsurface water ice.