China Has the Great Wall on Earth, Chinese Zhurong Rover Has This Tiny Scarp on Mars

Scarp near the Zhurong landing site on Mars 7 photos
Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UArizona
Chinese Zhurong rover on MarsImage taken during the rover's landing on MarsImage taken during the rover's landing on MarsTaken by Zhurong's front obstacle avoidance camera, the image shows the rover approaching its parachute and backshell assemblyThis image shows the tracks made by rover as its leaving the site where the parachute and backshell are locatedChinese rover snaps color picture of its parachute and backshell on Mars
Until recently, the only nations to have landed something on Mars were the U.S. and Russia. Of them, the U.S. is the one that managed to keep hardware going over there for long stretches of time, and the nation was, for a long time, the sole operator of working rovers on the Red Planet. That’s until China decided to have a go at it.
Back in May of last year, the Tianwen-1 mission was declared a success, after the Zhurong rover was deployed on the surface of the planet. It landed somewhere in Utopia Planitia and started going about its business, getting over 940 gigabytes of data to date.

For the record, Utopia Planitia, now a large plain over on Mars, is considered the Solar System’s largest impact basin, being a 3,300 km (2,50 miles) in diameter reminder of something positively huge hitting Mars a long time ago. And with things of this scale, finding interesting details to talk about is no easy task.

Luckily, humanity has in orbit around the Red Planet an orbital camera. Called HiRISE, it’s responsible for tens of thousands of detailed shots of Mars we now are capable of studying. The one we have here, captured in January 2022 from an altitude of 286 km (178 miles), shows the area just south of the Zhurong landing site.

The defining trait of this area is the scarp running west to east, like some sort of miniature Chinese Great Wall placed on Mars to help the Chinese rover not get homesick.

Now, a scarp is generally a kind of natural wall, that can form through a variety of processes. Scientists are unsure what caused this one to form, and they’re debating on whether a flow of wet sediments, or a collapse, is responsible for giving birth to it.

People over at NASA and the University of Arizona, who run the HiRISE, are hopeful Zhurong will eventually reach its Martian Great Wall, and have a closer look at it.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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