China's Mars Mission Milestones so Far As Tianwen-1 Releases Videos

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has released new videos, photos and sounds captured by its Tianwen-1 Mars mission.

The mission involves an orbiter and lander, as well as a rover called Zhurong. On May 14, the lander successfully touched down on Mars, making China only the third nation—after the United States and Soviet Union—to successfully land on the red planet and establish communication from the surface.

The lander touched down in the southern part of Utopia Planitia, the largest known impact basin in the solar system.

A week later, the lander deployed the Zhurong rover, beginning the vehicle's exploration phase. This feat made China only the second country after the United States to land and operate a rover on Mars.

The video clips released by the CNSA on Sunday show parts of the landing phase as well as the rover exploring the red planet.

The first clip shows the descent and landing process of the lander and rover. The second shows Zhurong driving down from its landing platform onto the martian surface on May 22.

The other two videos show the rover driving around alongside the lander. These were captured on June 1 by a drop camera that was deployed by the rover. The drop camera has a mass of less than roughly two pounds, making it the lightest artificial object on Mars.

The CNSA also released an image taken by Zhurong's rear-view camera showing the tracks that the rover has made on the martian surface.

The aims of the Tianwen-1 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.

Since launching on July 23, 2020, Tianwen-1 has clocked up 340 days in space, with the spacecraft entering the orbit of Mars on February 10, 2021.

Zhurong has been deployed for 37 days, in which time the rover had traveled more than 770 feet on the surface of the red planet, Chinese state-owned broadcaster CGTN reported.

On Sunday, CNSA also released audio files of sounds recorded by the rover's Mars Climatic Station instrument for the first time. This is only the second instrument to successfully record sounds on Mars after the microphones on NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover.

Jia Yang, Tianwen-1 system deputy chief designer, said in a video posted by Chinese state-run broadcaster CCTV: "The purpose we [installed] the recording device is to capture the sounds of wind on Mars during its windy weathers. We really want to hear how the winds sound like on a planet other than the Earth."

China's Zhurong rover on Mars
Wheel tracks left by the Zhurong rover on the martian surface. NSA