Mars Panorama Photo Released by China 100 Days Into First Red Planet Mission

China's national space agency has released a new panoramic photo of the Martian surface after its Zhurong Mars rover completed 100 days on the Red Planet's surface.

The Zhurong rover, part of the China National Space Administration's (CNSA) Tianwen-1 Mars mission, landed on May 15 this year on what was China's first attempt to send a rover there.

On Monday, 100 days later, Chinese state-affiliated media outlets shared a sweeping panorama of Mars in which the rover can be seen parked right next to a sand dune.

#China's #Marsrover Zhurong has spent 100 days exploring the red planet's surface since it first set its wheels on Martian soil on May 22, according to the China National Space Administration (#CNSA) on Monday.
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— Voice of the People (@VoiceofPD) August 31, 2021

According to CNSA the rover has now traveled 1,064 meters (nearly 3,500 feet) south from its landing site.

To celebrate the 100-day milestone, CNSA and the People's Bank of China (PBOC) jointly released three commemorative coins on which the rover is inscribed.

Like NASA's Perseverance rover, Zhurong is a wheeled robotic explorer containing imaging equipment and scientific instruments that study the Martian environment.

It is 1.85 meters (6 feet) tall and weighs 529 lb, according to CNSA. In a press release posted early on Tuesday the space agency said the rover was "in good shape" and was headed further south from its original landing point on a journey to the shore Mars' Utopia Planitia plain, located within the Utopia impact basin.

Whatever the rover does now can be considered a bonus since, according to CNSA on August 18, Zhurong exceeded its original three-month life expectancy.

As a result the rover is on what the agency called an "extended expedition" towards the coastal area of Utopia Planitia.

That said, the rover is expected to pause its operations temporarily in September when Mars briefly undergoes its solar transit phase, meaning the planet will pass directly behind the sun from the Earth's perspective, putting Earth, the sun and Mars in a straight line.

This means that communication between Earth and Mars will be disrupted due to electromagnetic interference. CNSA is due to put Zhurong in a safety mode during this time.

Zhurong is only one aspect of China's ongoing Tianwen-1 Mars mission. The mission also consists of an orbiter which continues to circle Mars and has done so since February 2021, months before Zhurong touched down.

Zhurong is exploring Mars at the same time as NASA's Perseverance rover, which landed on the Red Planet just months before Zhurong.

The two rovers are different in terms of size. At 7 feet tall and 2,260 lb Perseverance is heftier than Zhurong.

Zhurong, with a top speed of 200 meters per hour or 0.12 mph according to Scientific American, is quicker than Perseverance, which has a top speed of 152 meters per hour or 0.09 mph.

The Zhurong rover seen here in a selfie taken using a remote camera. Zhurong is China's first Mars rover to operate on the Red Planet's surface. CNSA / Xinhua