China’s Zhurong Mars rover returns panorama ahead of planetary blackout

China’s Mars rover Zhurong has produced a remarkable new panorama of its surroundings in Utopia Planitia to mark 100 days of activity on the Red Planet as preparations continue for the rover to spend more than a month in safe mode this autumn.

The six-wheeled, solar-powered rover has covered 3,491 feet (1,064 meters) since rolling onto the Martian surface on May 22. But from mid-September to late October, the rover and its orbiting companion, Tianwen-1, will be in safe mode as the sun’s charged particles interfere with their communication with Earth.

Related: China’s Tianwen 1 Mars rover mission in photos

A panorama of Utopia Planitia returned by the Zhurong rover in late August 2021. (Image credit: CNSA/PEC)

In preparation for the break, Zhurong paused to take a good look around with its panoramic camera. The returned image shows the rover and its solar arrays and antenna close to a dune, a feature type that mission scientists are keen for Zhurong to analyze. A number of distant features can be seen on the horizon of the panorama including, above Zhurong’s antenna, the backshell from the rover’s landing in May. Zhurong visited the discarded gear up close in July.

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