China releases sound and video of its rover touchdown

Do you remember the stunning video of the Perseverance rover landing on Mars? The Chinese National Space Agency (CNSA) has now released similar video footage from their Zhurong rover, including the sounds recorded as they plunged through the Martian atmosphere on their way to landing in Utopia Planitia. The CNSA also released noises of the rover driving off the landing platform.

Big Zhurong Update: Here is the full footage from the EDL of the Zhurong Rover showing the parachute deployment, backshell separation and landing, including the very cool hovering during the hazard avoidance phase. [CNSA/PEC]

– Andrew Jones (@AJ_FI) June 27, 2021

Footage from the rover landing on May 14, 2021 shows the deployment of the parachute, the separation of the backshell, and a view of the lander as it approached the surface of Mars. Or as the CNSA put it in its press release, “the descent process of the landing patrol”.

Interestingly, the parachute appears to have similar markings to the Perseverance parachute, which contained a secret message in binary code. The message “Dare Mighty Things” is a slogan of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and originally comes from a speech given by the 26th from the USA, Theodore Roosevelt.

The sounds from the surface of Zhurong exiting the lander were captured by its climate station, which is mainly used to record wind noise.

“The audio includes live sounds during the process of turning the rover’s drive mechanism on and off, driving on a ramp, and hitting the surface of Mars,” said CNSA. “The sound of the rover moving away comes mainly from the drive mechanism, the friction between the wheels and the ramp, and the friction between the wheels and the ground.”

The sounds are muffled, perhaps due to the weaker atmosphere on Mars compared to that on Earth. It will be interesting to hear more sounds from Mars from Zhurong over the course of the three month mission.

The photo shows the wheel tracks left by the Mars rover Zhurong. Photo credit: Xinhua and CNSA.

Perseverance had the first working microphone on Mars. At least three previous Mars missions had microphones as part of their design. The first to fly to Mars on board NASA’s Mars Polar Lander in 1999, but crashed on the surface. A similar microphone was supposed to be part of the Netlander mission of the French space agency CNES, which was due to launch in 2007, but the mission was canceled due to funding difficulties. The Phoenix lander, which touched down near the North Pole of Mars in 2008, had a microphone that was part of its descent vision system. However, shortly before the mission began, the engineers discovered a potential electronics problem in the microphone that could affect other systems, and the microphone was disabled.

The video also includes footage from a remote wifi camera that the rover placed near the landing pad. The Zhurong rover then returned to pose for a “family photo” with the lander.

A wireless camera took this “group photo” of China’s lander and rover Tianwen-1 on the surface of Mars. Photo credit: Chinese Space Agency

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