Video Shows China's Mars Lander Separating From Tianwen-1 Orbiter

China has released a video of its Mars lander separating from the orbiter that sent it to the red planet.

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) also shared the first photos that its Zhurong rover has transmitted from Mars—the first public evidence that the vehicle successfully reached the Martian surface.

China's robotic spacecraft is comprised of an orbiter, lander and the Zhurong rover. On May 14, the lander successfully touched down on Mars, making China only the third nation—after the United States and Soviet Union—to land a vehicle on the red planet.

The aims of the mission include investigating the geology of Mars, studying the planet's atmosphere, examining the distribution of ice and searching for evidence of current and past life.

The video released by the CNSA shows the lander breaking away from the Tianwen-1 orbiter, which has established a data link with Earth and started sending back images on Monday.

Video documenting the separation of lander-rover combination of Tianwen-1 from orbiter and the soft-landing process of the combo: CNSA pic.twitter.com/VQnbCMscc8

— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) May 19, 2021

Since the successful touchdown last week, the CNSA had released few details about the mission, fuelling speculation online that something might have gone wrong.

On Wednesday, however, the space agency said the Zhurong rover was preparing to drive off the landing platform and would soon start probing the surface of Mars.

The CNSA also released two images taken after the landing. A black-and-white picture, captured by a camera on the front of the rover, shows the rails that the vehicle will drive down to reach the surface.

This camera acts as the rover's "eye," enabling it to detect obstacles and maneuver around them. It has a very wide angle lens, which is why the horizon in the background appears to be curved.

The other picture, in color, was captured by a navigation camera pointed at the tail of the rover, with the vehicle's solar panels and antenna visible.

#Zhurong rover is preparing to drive off the landing platform and will soon start probing the surface of Mars: CNSA https://t.co/RLLdIzUSW0 https://t.co/yaHd0rztjn

— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) May 19, 2021

The red rocks of the rover's landing site, an area known as Utopia Planitia, can also be seen in the image. This region within Utopia—the largest known impact basin in the solar system—is where NASA's Viking 2 probe touched down in September 1976.

Zhurong—named after a mythical Chinese god of fire—will join NASA's Perseverance and Curiosity rovers on the planet. If Zhurong's mission is completed, China will become only the second nation after the United States to deploy a rover successfully on Mars.

This breaking news article has been updated with additional information.

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One of the first images sent back to Earth by China's Zhurong Mars rover. China National Space Administration