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Tracks of China's Zhurong Mars rover spotted by NASA orbiter (photo)

The HiRISE camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this image of China's Zhurong rover on the Martian surface on March 11, 2022.
The HiRISE camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this image of China's Zhurong rover on the Martian surface on March 11, 2022. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UArizona)

A NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars has spotted China's Zhurong rover down on the surface, providing an epic overview of the vehicle's travels through the red dirt.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) captured the image of Zhurong on March 11, according to a post from the researchers behind MRO's powerful HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera.

Despite MRO orbiting 179 miles (288 kilometers) above, HiRISE managed to pick up the roughly 0.93 miles (1.5 km) of tracks that Zhurong has made journeying south since landing in May 2021, a cutout image with increased contrast shows.

Related: The latest news about China's space program

This zoomed-in section of HiRISE’s imagery of China's Mars rover Zhurong and its tracks, captured on March 11, 2022, shows that the rover inspected the backshell and parachute that helped it land safely in May 2021.

This zoomed-in section of HiRISE's imagery of China's Mars rover Zhurong and its tracks, captured on March 11, 2022, shows that the rover inspected the backshell and parachute that helped it land safely in May 2021. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UArizona)

The photo shows that the rover visited the parachute and backshell that slowed Zhurong's descent through the thin Martian atmosphere while also surveying surface features, including dunes.

Zhurong is part of China's Tianwen 1 mission, which also includes an orbiter. Last month, that orbiter marked a full (Earth) year of circling the Red Planet. (Zhurong stayed attached to the orbiter for several months before separating for its May 2021 touchdown.)

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Andrew Jones
Andrew Jones

Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for Space.com in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and others. Andrew first caught the space bug when, as a youngster, he saw Voyager images of other worlds in our solar system for the first time. Away from space, Andrew enjoys trail running in the forests of Finland. You can follow him on Twitter @AJ_FI.